As Joaquin Approaches, Christie Makes the Case That He Can Lead

Flickr user Gage Skidmore

As the East Coast braces for Hur­ricane Joa­quin, Chris Christie wants every­one to know that he’s ready.

The New Jer­sey gov­ernor has faltered in the polls, prompt­ing ques­tions about wheth­er the 2016 can­did­ate will qual­i­fy for the main stage at the next Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial de­bate at the end of the month. But Christie is tak­ing full ad­vant­age of the spot­light cre­ated by the rap­idly ad­van­cing storm to head off doubts about his abil­ity to lead, dredging up memor­ies of Su­per­storm Sandy as evid­ence that he has the know-how and ex­per­i­ence to gov­ern, even in tough times.

“I’m bet­ter and I’m more ready, and I was pretty ready the last time,” Christie said at a press con­fer­ence on Thursday. “After what we went through with Sandy, we’re not only ready for a storm to come but we’re also much more ready for the af­ter­math.”

To amp­li­fy his mes­sage, Christie sent out a string of tweets dur­ing the press con­fer­ence. “We are pre­pared. I need every­one to not pan­ic,” one read. The gov­ernor also de­clared a state of emer­gency in New Jer­sey in an­ti­cip­a­tion of the ex­treme weath­er event. 

Christie took the op­por­tun­ity to draw a con­trast between him­self and his Re­pub­lic­an rivals, sug­gest­ing that his ten­ure as New Jer­sey gov­ernor gives him an edge in the 2016 race and makes him a more ser­i­ous can­did­ate.

De­fend­ing his de­cision to praise Pres­id­ent Obama for the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s lead­er­ship in the wake of Sandy, Christie in­sisted Thursday he will do his job, no mat­ter what it takes, adding that he’s pre­pared to call up the pres­id­ent again if need be. The gov­ernor went on to say: “If any­body should learn any­thing about me from the ex­per­i­ence dur­ing Sandy—eight days be­fore a pres­id­en­tial race for a guy that I was the biggest sur­rog­ate for in the coun­try—I’ll do my job first. … There will al­ways be people in my party who won’t like it but they’ve nev­er been gov­ernor so they don’t un­der­stand what it means to be here and have to do this job, and I’m go­ing to do it.”

Joa­quin has stead­ily strengthened in re­cent days. Met­eor­o­lo­gists pre­dict that the storm could make land­fall in the United States over the week­end, and the mid-At­lantic may stand in the hur­ricane’s path, with met­eor­o­lo­gists warn­ing that North Car­o­lina and New Jer­sey could be hard hit.

So far, Christie ap­pears to be mak­ing an ef­fort to ap­pear re­spons­ive and ready as the hur­ricane ad­vances. The gov­ernor can­celed a planned pres­id­en­tial cam­paign event in New Hamp­shire slated for Fri­day and plans in­stead to be in New Jer­sey.

For Christie, bra­cing for ex­treme weath­er is fa­mil­i­ar, and fraught, ter­rit­ory. The New Jer­sey gov­ernor has come un­der in­tense cri­ti­cism for the state’s re­sponse to Sandy, a deadly and dam­aging hur­ricane that hit the re­gion in 2012.

Crit­ics have ac­cused Christie of fail­ing to ad­equately pre­pare for the event or take steps to re­build the state and as­sist dis­placed fam­il­ies in the wake of the storm. Faced with con­front­a­tion, the gov­ernor has grown vis­ibly angry. Christie told a heck­ler to “sit down and shut up” at a Sandy an­niversary event last year. “Turn around, get your fif­teen minutes of fame, and then maybe take your jack­et off, roll up your sleeves, and do something for the people of this state,” Christie yelled.

Christie took a far more dip­lo­mat­ic tone Thursday. He was not sharp and ac­cus­at­ory. He was prag­mat­ic and in­clus­ive“Every day, I was out with the pub­lic after Sandy and saw the emo­tion­al re­ac­tions of people,” Christie said.  “As aw­ful as it was, they’re still here, and they’re still stand­ing, and they sur­vived. Dam­aged, yes, Trau­mat­ized, by the ex­per­i­ence, of course, but they’re here and they’ve learned something … I’ve learned something and we’ve learned something from do­ing this.”

If you’re won­der­ing where Christie’s icon­ic fleece is—the one that he wore fre­quently in the af­ter­math of Sandy—the gov­ernor answered a ques­tion about that, too. “I haven’t seen it in a while, I be­lieve it’s in my closet, but I have to tell you I haven’t eye­balled that baby in a while,” Christie said, adding that he would “look for it to­night."
 

(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)

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