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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (second from left) meets with local residents at Brigantine Beach Community Center on Wednesday as a smiling President Barack Obama looks on.
BRIGANTINE, N.J.--President Barack Obama soberly toured the destruction wrought by superstorm Sandy on Wednesday in the company of New Jersey's Republican governor and assured victims "we will not quit" until cleanup and recovery are complete. Six days before their hard-fought election, rival Mitt Romney muted criticism of Obama
Forsaking partisan politics for the third day in a row, the president helicoptered with Gov. Chris Christie over washed-out roads, flooded homes, boardwalks bobbing in the ocean and, in Seaside Heights, a fire still burning after ruining about eight structures.
Back on the ground, the president introduced one local woman to "my guy Craig Fugate." In a plainspoken demonstration of the power of the presidency, Obama instructed the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to "make sure she gets the help she needs" immediately.
Despite the tour and Romney's own expressions of sympathy for storm victims--a break on the surface from heated campaigning--a controversy as heated as any in the long, intense struggle for the White House flared over the Republican challenger's new television and radio ads in Ohio.
"Desperation," Vice President Joe Biden said of the broadcast claims that suggested automakers General Motors and Chrysler are adding jobs in China at the expense of workers in the bellwether state. "One of the most flagrantly dishonest ads I can ever remember."
Republicans were unrepentant as Romney struggled for a breakthrough in the Midwest. "American taxpayers are on track to lose $25 billion as a result of President Obama's handling of the auto bailout, and GM and Chrysler are expanding their production overseas," said an emailed statement issued in the name of Republican running mate Paul Ryan.
Christie was waiting when Air Force One landed, and he and Obama, two figures in blue windbreakers, walked together toward the president's helicopter to begin their tour. It was a tableau that seemed impossible a week ago--a president struggling to defend his economic record in a tight election, flying off to a non-battleground state to spend the afternoon in the company of the man who delivered the keynote address at Romney's Republican National Convention this summer.
Three hours later, the two men spoke of each other in glowing terms.
"He has sprung into action immediately," said Christie.
Said Obama of the governor, "He has put his heart and soul into making sure the people of New Jersey bounce back stronger than before."