JERUSALEM (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told an Israeli TV interviewer Sunday that President Barack Obama deserves praise for his efforts to help his state recover from Superstorm Sandy, but he is still going to vote for Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Christie, a leading Romney surrogate, delivered the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention. Last week, he toured New Jersey's battered shore towns with Obama and discussed recovery assistance. The two embraced and had words of praise for each other's efforts to relieve the misery the superstorm brought to New Jersey residents — a rare display of bipartisanship during a bitter election campaign that has left the country deeply polarized.
"Honestly the fact of the matter is that what New Jerseyans expect from their governor is to work for them, not to work for any particular political party," Christie said in an interview from New Jersey broadcast on Israel's Channel 2 TV, which had sent one of its main anchors to report on the presidential campaign and storm aftermath.
But Christie insisted that nothing that happened has caused him to waver in his commitment to Romney.
"I'm a Republican, I've endorsed Mitt Romney and I support him. I intend to vote for him on Tuesday," Christie said. "But the fact of the matter is that if the President of the United States comes here and he is willing to help my people, and he does it, then I'm going to say nice things about him because he's earned it."
"And I've said plenty of not-nice things about the president over time — he knows that. And we joked about that when we were together this week," Christies said.
Christie dismissed critics on the right who have accused him of giving a boost to Obama in the closing days of the campaign.
"The fact is that if somebody does a good job they deserve credit and New Jerseyans expect me to work with everybody —Republicans, Democrats, Independents —to get through this crisis and get the job done," Christie said.
If "anybody is upset in the Republican Party about this, then they haven't been to New Jersey. Come see the destruction, come see the loss, and then tell me if you're going to still criticize me for complimenting somebody who is the President of the United States and who has provided help to my people during one of the worst crises this state has ever faced," he said.
Christie said Sunday that all 21 New Jersey counties will now be included in the major federal disaster area declaration, making all residents eligible to seek assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
The governor also said progress has been made in restoring power to those who lost service when Superstorm Sandy struck last week.
Christie noted that fewer than 1 million residents were without power as of Sunday, compared with 2.7 million who lost their electricity at the height of the storm. Christie called the change "substantial progress."