As CBS and NBC both touted President Obama's Tuesday visit to New Jersey, so too did CNN hype Obama's "bromance" with Governor Chris Christie as the President tried to step away from Washington and his administration's scandals.
White House correspondent Jessica Yellin said it would be a "good chance" for Obama to trumpet the effectiveness of his government as FEMA's performance after Hurricane Sandy was a "bright spot" for Obama. Although a positive CNN headline read "'odd couple' puts politics aside," correspondents admitted that political gain was a part of the visit for both men.
CNN gave the story over 15 minutes of coverage in a little over an hour on Tuesday afternoon, shifting its attention away from Obama's scandals.
The Lead host Jake Tapper noted the "bromance" between Obama and Christie: "And it looks as though the long-distance bromance is still going. The President did everything but feed cotton candy to Christie as they toured the historic boardwalk in Point Pleasant." Yellin said it was the "political odd couple together again."
On The Lead, Yellin reported the visit could be a boost for the Obama administration's image:
"Given all the controversies he [Obama] is facing in Washington, D.C. that especially focus on the ways government is not working lately, this is a good chance for him to highlight the ways government has worked in helping New Jersey recover after the storm. FEMA a bright spot for the President in his record overhauling the emergency management systems there, Jake."
During the ensuing 5 p.m. hour of The Situation Room, Yellin added that "the President had something to gain from this visit, too. It gave him a chance to pivot away from the controversies in Washington and to focus on an example of government working."
CNN's John King also admitted that the President could deflect attention away from his scandals with the visit that CNN was multiple segments covering:
"What does the President get? As Jes notes, he's out of Washington. If you look at the IRS controversy, if you look at many of the other things, his critics say he can't run a lemonade stand essentially. Obama critics say they don't manage the government very well. Well FEMA, I was just in Oklahoma, you have a Republican governor there, you have a Republican Governor Chris Christie, all across the country FEMA gets high marks and the President deserves some credit for that."
Below is a transcript of the segment which aired on May 28 on The Lead, at 4:01 p.m. EDT:
JAKE TAPPER: Cheap full-serve gas, and hair sprayed to last. It is the unofficial start of summer on the Jersey shore, now seven months after Hurricane Sandy. The sounds of the tide and the seagulls are accompanied by the roar of bulldozers and the echoes of hammers. President Obama was there today to see the results of reconstruction and check in with an old pal, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie.
[HEADLINE: "Bromance on the Boardwalk: Christie hosts Obama to see Jersey Shore progress"]
President BARACK OBAMA: You are stronger than the storm. After all you've dealt with, after all you've been through, the Jersey shore is back and it is open for business.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, New Jersey governor (R): I am not going to let anything or anyone get in between me and the completion of the mission to restore and recover our great state.
(End Video Clip)
TAPPER: And it looks as though the long-distance bromance is still going. The President did everything but feed cotton candy to Christie as they toured the historic boardwalk in Point Pleasant. Christie even won a stuffed bear for President Obama. Chicago bear of course. In the days after the hurricane, right before the 2012 election, conservative pundits chastised Christie for praising President Obama for his response to the storm. He said he was doing what was best for the people in his state, a state that overwhelmingly voted to re-elect President Obama, it should be noted. For some in the Garden State, the political sniping seemed rather petty given the realities for tens of thousands of people who just watched their homes wash away, not to mention the 12 New Jerseyans who were killed in the storm. Chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin joins us now from the boardwalk. Jessica, it may be hard to be a saint in the city, as Springsteen sang, but it's not that hard for a Republican governor to be nice to the President in a blue state, huh?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN White House correspondent: No. Well put, Jake, and "Live In Asbury Park" launched Bruce Springsteen's career. It's not going to launch Chris Christie's but it certainly isn't hurting him in this state to be seen with President Obama. Since the two of them started their so-called bromance as you put it, back after Superstorm Sandy hit here, Chris Christie has helped bring more than three billion with a "b" dollars in federal funds to the state for recovery efforts and he's seen his own poll numbers go up in the state by 15 points. The latest polling has him at 69 percent approval. Not bad for a governor facing re-election, as you point out, in a blue state.
There are advantages for President Obama to come to town here, too. Given all the controversies he is facing in Washington, D.C. that especially focus on the ways government is not working lately, this is a good chance for him to highlight the ways government has worked in helping New Jersey recover after the storm. FEMA a bright spot for the President in his record overhauling the emergency management systems there, Jake
TAPPER: That's right, and you made that point in the coverage of the President's trip to Oklahoma over the weekend. One other question, though, Jessica, as everyone of course has been talking about Governor Christie's weight since he had that weight loss surgery, the lap band, it's been three months. Does he – I know you are not a licensed physician, but does he look any different to you?
YELLIN: (Laughing) Okay. I'm going to be honest with you. I don't see the change, but people that I trust and respect have looked at side-by-side photos and they say it appears that he has lost weight. So we are for positive reinforcement, and they say that these lap band surgeries, they take some time. And so we're all for Governor Christie and the progress he has made so far. So we'll give it a yes.
TAPPER: Alright Jessica Yellin, thanks so much.
YELLIN: Based on reports.
TAPPER: We'll see you soon.