TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie decided to return home Friday from the Republican presidential campaign trail in New Hampshire as a major snowstorm threatened to drop up to 2 feet of snow on his state and cause coastal flooding.
The decision, less than three weeks from the critical New Hampshire primary, positions the governor to be the face of the state’s storm response, a role that helped propel him to political success during past storms.
“I’m sorry, NH but I gotta go home – we got snow coming,” Christie wrote on Twitter. “I want to make sure the people of my state feel safe and secure.”
After meeting with cabinet officials Friday evening, Christie told reporters in Newark that he decided to return home after getting briefed Friday morning that the storm was going to bring “some measure of significance.”
Christie has focused much of his campaign’s resources in New Hampshire. He began rising in the polls late last year, and the state could make or break his presidential bid.
Since catching flak for spending the first big snowstorm after he entered office in 2010 at Disney World with his family, Christie has put himself front and center during preparation for summer and winter storms, driving home public safety and preparedness messages to frazzled residents.
When Hurricane Irene was approaching a year later, Christie told people to “get the hell off the beach.”
Superstorm Sandy struck in 2012, and Christie stood shoulder to shoulder with President Barack Obama, touring the seaside devastation and browbeating Republican lawmakers for dragging their feet on approving aid for the shore. His approval ratings soared, and he won re-election a year later with 60 percent of the vote.
In October, he returned from the campaign trail when it appeared that Hurricane Joaquin was going to slam into the state.
Christie spent the majority of last year out of the state campaigning, leaving Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno as acting governor. He has repeatedly defended his absence, saying he talks to his Cabinet regularly and uses technology to keep up with government.
After opponents including Democratic New York Mayor Bill de Blasio attacked Christie for considering staying in New Hampshire, Christie announced Friday afternoon his wife would remain in New Hampshire but he was heading home.
Before Christie had changed course, Democratic Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson said he he had no problem with the governor’s original decision and much of the critical work of managing a storm response depends on rank-and-file workers.
“I’m anticipating a yeoman’s job,” Jackson said. “If they don’t show, then I’ll worry.”
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