(Photo: Alex Wong Getty Images)
Malia Rulon Herman, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Friday continued defending his decision to welcome President Obama to his state to tour damage from Hurricane Sandy - days before last year's presidential election.
Elected officials who engage in partisanship after disasters "just don't understand why they were put in office in the first place," Christie, a Republican, told people attending a national Conference on Volunteering and Service in Washington.
Christie was criticized by other Republicans for praising the president's leadership after Sandy and for a photo showing him and Obama hugging amid the damage.
"I said to some of my Republican friends in the aftermath of this, what did you expect me to do when the president showed up? Did you want me to wear my Romney sweatshirt when I was standing there? What did you expect me to do?" he said.
Christie, who has seen his own approval ratings soar for his handling of the disaster, fought to get federal relief for his state and criticized his own party for delays in Washington. Congress ended up passing $50.2 billion in aid, about what the governor had sought.
Christie, who welcomed Obama back to the Jersey Shore last month, reminded the audience that Obama is still president, even if he didn't vote for him.
"At the time when all this stuff was going on, it never crossed my mind to act any other way," he said. "I was elected to serve the people of the state of New Jersey, and the people and my state were in crisis, and anybody who competently came to help my people, I was going to say they've done a good job, whether they were a Republican or a Democrat."