RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Hurricane Sandy produced many dramatic images, including one that would not have been predicted before the storm. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was expected to campaign this week for Mitt Romney, was standing instead alongside President Obama. Yesterday the two men toured together some of the hardest hit parts of New Jersey. They've become a political odd couple since the storm, each offering praise for the other's leadership. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama got a bird's eye look at some of the worst damage from Hurricane Sandy, flying by helicopter over coastal communities north of Atlantic City. Back on the ground, he tried to encourage those who are starting to clean up from the storm, even as he cautioned recovery won't happen overnight.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: What I can promise you is that the federal government will be working as closely as possible with the state and local officials and we will not quit until this is done.
HORSLEY: Mr. Obama visited a storm shelter in Brigantine, New Jersey, where he passed out special White House boxes of M&Ms to children who were missing Halloween. Lenny Marrone and Sandrine Burel have been staying at the shelter with their two kids ever since floodwaters drove them out of their house on Monday.
LENNY MARRONE: The water came up to the house. We got out by boat.
SANDRINE BUREL: He put us in a flood bus to come here and we've been here ever since. It's going on our third day.
HORSLEY: Marrone's been back to check on their house and feed the dog they left behind. But the family's not yet ready to move back home.
MARRONE: We're here 'cause we have no power.
BUREL: Yeah, we still have no power. We lost our truck but that can be replaced. Our kids are OK.
HORSLEY: Restoring electricity is one of the top priorities in the storm cleanup. Mr. Obama held a conference call this week with executives from the region's commercial electric utilities. The federal government is offering military planes to ferry equipment and repair crews where they're needed.
OBAMA: We're able to get C-17s and C-130s, military transport planes, potentially to move assets, personnel, to speed up the process of getting power up and running as soon as possible.
HORSLEY: As the lights come back on, many evacuees will be able to go home, but others are not so lucky. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says thanks to speedy disaster declarations, the government is now offering additional help to those who need temporary housing or other assistance.
CRAIG FUGATE: People that have had flood damage to their homes, that they're not going to be able to go back, all we want to do is get them rental assistance and give them a place to stay.
HORSLEY: Governor Christie listed other priorities to help New Jersey return to what he called normalcy, including repair of sewage systems and reopening schools. Christie says since he's raised those issues with the president, Mr. Obama has sprung into action immediately.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: It's been a great working relationship to make sure that we're doing the jobs that people elected us to do.
HORSLEY: Christie, who's a Republican, has been an outspoken critic of the president in the past and an outspoken supporter of his GOP rival, Mitt Romney. Still, the New Jersey governor had nothing but praise for Mr. Obama this week in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. With Christie at his side yesterday, Mr. Obama returned the compliment.
OBAMA: I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before.
HORSLEY: The White House insisted yesterday's tour was not a time for politics. In fact, Mr. Obama has skipped campaign rallies for the last three days to focus on the storm. He's back to stumping for votes today, but the brief hiatus from the trail doesn't seem to have hurt him. An ABC/Washington Post poll released last night found nearly eight out of 10 likely voters think the president's done a good or even excellent job in handling the storm. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.