President Obama and Gov. Christie at a shelter for those displaced by Hurricane Sandy, in Brigantine, N.J. Pete Souza / The White House(TRENTON, N.J.) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has dealt with his fair share of natural disasters. With a nasty blizzard heading towards the Garden State Monday, he declared the 15th weather-related state of emergency since he took office in January 2010.
“We’re tough in this state; we’ve been through plenty of things before. So have I,” Christie said during a press conference urging residents to prepare before the storm hits.
Each hurricane, flood or related crisis has the side effect, however unintended, of providing the possible 2016 contender an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership style.
Here, in chronological order, are five key weather-related moments during Christie’s tenure:
1. The Disney World Blizzard – 2010
Christie came under fire when he stayed on vacation at Florida’s Disney World during a brutal December snowstorm, rather than coming home to lead his state’s response. To make matters worse, his lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno was also vacationing at the time, leaving Steve Sweeney, the Democratic state Senate president, in charge. Christie defended himself by saying the state would have responded the same way regardless of where he was, and that he didn’t want to break a promise to his children to visit the most magical place on Earth.
2. “Get the hell off the beach” – 2011
Christie flaunted his signature tough-talking style when he called for a mandatory evacuation of points on the Jersey Shore in the run-up to Hurricane Irene. “Do not waste any more time working on your tan. Get off the beach, get out of your beach houses and get to safer lands,” he said, expressing frustration over news coverage of people catching rays despite severe weather warnings. His performance impressed conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, who at the time said Christie’s stewardship of this storm reflected a “kinder, gentler and more paternal Chris Christie.”
3. Sandy bipartisanship – 2012
The devastating late-October hurricane, which killed 117 people per a CDC analysis and destroyed thousands of homes, will likely remain one of the most defining periods in Christie’s administration. Politically, it was memorable in part because Christie warmly welcomed President Obama to tour storm damage on the Jersey Shore, praising him for his rapid mobilization of federal assets and coordination with the state. “He has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit…It’s been a great working relationship,” Christie said during the October 31 visit. While Christie’s overture earned him bipartisan praise for seeming to put politics aside in the interest of his state (and some state polls had his approval rating soaring) he upset many national Republicans, some of whom later suggested his harmony with the president might have contributed to Romney’s ballot box loss just four days later. Longtime Iowa political operative Doug Gross was quoted by the New York Times as saying it might hurt Christie with Iowa caucus voters, who, Gross said, “don’t forget things like this.”
4. Swiping at other leaders – 2010, 2012
Christie has never shied from defending himself against criticism, especially coming from fellow tri-state leaders over his response to a storm. After former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani tweaked Christie for staying in Florida during a 2010 blizzard (see #1), the New Jersey governor shot back on Fox News. “It’s easy when you are out of office to be shooting from the peanut gallery when you no longer have any responsibility, but I have a responsibility to my family…I’m just going to chalk it off to a bad morning for the mayor. Maybe he didn’t have a good breakfast or something like that,” Christie said. He also blasted Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford during Hurricane Sandy for allowing residents to shelter locally rather than evacuate the area. Christie and Giuliani seem to have made up since their 2010 spat, as Giuliani campaigned with Christie last year and called him “one of the best governors in the United States.”
5. Canceling the party – 2014, 2015
Whether as a result of the backlash over his Disney trip in 2010 or not, Christie has recently bowed out of several political events due to winter storms. The governor canceled his own re-election celebration in January 2014 over concerns that bad weather could lead to road hazards, and skipped ceremonies in Ohio and Illinois this month as part of his tour congratulating Republican governors which has also taken him through, coincidentally or not, key presidential primary and battleground states including Florida and Iowa.
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