As Obama talks criminal justice in Newark, Christie praises police in Camden

 Gov. Chris Christie addresses members of the Camden County police force. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Gov. Chris Christie addresses members of the Camden County police force. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Flanked by local officials, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stopped by the Camden County Police headquarters Monday to praise local law enforcement for a drop in crime over the last two years and highlight a more peaceful atmosphere on city streets.

But the visit also underscored Christie’s absence at another event about 90 miles away in Newark. 

President Barack Obama visited that struggling city to tour a drug rehab center and call for additional prisoner re-entry reforms in line with “ban the box,” a push to prohibit employers from asking potential employees about their criminal past during the application process.

“It’s wonderful for the president to come to New Jersey and acknowledge the work that’s been done in New Jersey by leaders of New Jersey,” Christie said. But “what’s happening here, and what he’s celebrating today, has nothing to do with anything the federal government’s had anything to do with.”

Christie, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the presidency, accused Obama of not acting strongly enough on behalf of law enforcement nationwide.

Christie’s decision to snub the president was clearly a political calibration, analysts said.

Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said Republicans claimed Christie helped Obama win re-election in 2012 by embracing the president when he arrived in New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.

It’s no surprise that Christie kept far away from Obama, Murray said.

“He’s getting a little tiny bump in the polls right now, particularly in New Hampshire so he doesn’t want to raise that ghost again for these voters,” he said. “So it makes sense for him to say nobody who’s representing me should be anywhere near Obama right now.”

Appearing with Obama would be detrimental to the governor’s presidential campaign, concurred Montclair State political scientist Brigid Harrison. But not allowing Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to represent Christie at Obama’s Newark events is petty partisan politics, she said.

“Not only I think is this a bit of a slap in the face to the president, it really is a slap in the face to the lieutenant governor,” Harrison said. “This is really why she’s in office, to perform this kind of function.”

‘Camden is gonna shine’

During his visit to Camden, the governor also held up as a national model Camden’s police force, which was taken over by the county in 2013.

“You know, when you shine a spotlight on something, it either shines or it melts, because a spotlight is often very bright,” Christie said.

“I’m now confident that when the spotlight is shone on Camden, that Camden is gonna shine. And so will its residents.”

Christie also signed an executive order designating Nov. 5 as Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, which he said fell on Thursday to coincide with the Blue Mass, an annual Catholic mass honoring police officers and other first responders who died in the line of duty.

 

Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray says Republicans claimed Christie helped Obama win re-election in 2012 by embracing the President when he stopped in New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.

 

So Murray says it’s no surprise that Christie’s staying far away from Obama.

 

“He’s getting a little tiny bump in the polls right now particularly in New Hampshire so he doesn’t want to raise that ghost again for these voters. So it makes sense for him to say nobody who’s representing me should be anywhere near Obama right now.”

 

Montclair State political scientist Brigid Harrison also believes Christie is avoiding Obama this time because being there would be detrimental to the governor’s presidential campaign.  But Harrison says not allowing Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno to represent Christie at Obama’s Newark events is petty partisan politics.

 

“Not only I think is this a bit of a slap in the face to the President, it really is a slap in the face to the Lt. Governor. This is really why she’s in office, to perform this kind of function.”

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