PHOTO: President Obama congratulates Gov. Christie after a game of TouchDown Fever at an arcade on the Point Pleasant boardwalk. [Photo by Pete Souza]
THE JERSEY SHORE -- President Barack Obama and Gov. Chris Christie reunited on May 28 for a whirlwind tour of the Jersey Shore to celebrate and promote its rebuilding. They made stops in Asbury Park and Point Pleasant, where the political duo surveyed the rebuilt amusement centers and even tried their hands at a football toss game.
The iconic tourist economy here, epitomized by amusement arcades, has worked feverishly to repair the devastation left by Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29. Nearly all New Jersey shore towns reported that part or all of their boardwalks were reopened by Memorial Day.
"Now, last week, my advisors asked me -- they said, 'Mr. President, do you want to spend next Tuesday in Washington, or would you rather spend it at the Jersey Shore?'" the President told a boisterous crowd estimated at 4,000 in Asbury Park. "And I've got to say: I've got to make some tough decisions as president, but this wasn't one of them."
The visit by the president comes as the Garden State's seaside resorts kick off a "Stronger than the Storm" promotion to draw tourists back to the beaches and boardwalks. His visit, the first since he toured the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, follows a visit by England's Prince Harry earlier in the month. The state has begun a $25 million marketing campaign to highlight the shore's resurgence in time for the summer season.
"Republicans, Democrats, independents -- we all came together, because New Jersey is more important and our citizens are more important than any kind of politics at all," Christie said.
The season kicked off on an unseasonably cold Memorial Day weekend, but Jersey Shore businesses enjoyed a steady flow of visitors, according to reports. Tourism is a $38 billion industry in New Jersey, half of which was generated in the four shore counties of Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean in 2012. Sandy caused an estimated $37 billion in damage, much of it along the shore.
Separately, in New York City, Coney Island's beaches and amusement park reopened on May 24.