By David Cruz
It was a throwaway line that drew the loudest applause of an otherwise uneventful town hall meeting. The topic — Obamacare. When a resident asked what could be done about the Affordable Care Act (none too popular down here), the governor’s response:
“Elect a new president,” Chris Christie said. “That’s what you do.”
It was the kind of line tailor-made for a friendly crowd that still believes that their guy could, and probably should be, president. Down here, Sandy — and not the bridge scandal — is still what residents are talking, and asking, about.
“The bridge is 90 miles away up north for one thing,” said Jim Keeney, of Ortley Beach. “Sandy is more important to the people down here. The bridge thing is still being unraveled. Hopefully, the governor will have no culpability in it.”
Taking place in Toms River, the governor’s 112th town hall was another Sandy-heavy affair with Christie again placing the blame for the slow pace of the recovery on the federal government.
“We’ve got to get the federal government to change its way, and this is why you all should be scared of government getting bigger and bigger,” warned the governor. “The bigger government gets and the more it takes over, and when it takes it over by itself, we got no place to go.”
Many residents we talked to are dissatisfied with the job their government has done. The governor knows that there’s discontent here, and his re-direct on the blame is resonating. But in the days leading up to the election in November, the governor was celebrating the Jersey Shore recovery. Joan Wujcik, of Toms River, said the governor’s summer TV ad blitz still doesn’t sit well with her.
“It’s untrue,” she said of the claims in the ad. “On my block alone there are eight families who are still not back in their houses. There are boards on the window and it looks like downtown Camden.”
Meanwhile, outside, after the meeting, the governor avoided the press, again.
It can be easy to answer questions from a crowd when almost everyone is on your side. The governor says he’s held town halls all across the state, but, especially of late, he’s concentrated on friendly environments like Monmouth and Ocean counties, which may make for a smooth town hall but leaves a lot of questions about this governor and this administration unanswered.