EDISON - President Barack Obama tried his hand at arcade football and joked Tuesday with Gov. Chris Christie, declaring the Jersey Shore is back seven months after Superstorm Sandy bore down on its famed boardwalks and seaside towns.

The job of repairing the $38 billion in damage inflicted by the storm is not over, Obama said, adding that his return visit to a state he visited in the storm's immediate aftermath was intended to show he's still committed to putting the federal government to work. When all is said and done, Obama said, the Jersey Shore will be better and more resilient than it was before.

"You are stronger than the storm," Obama said. "After you've all you've dealt with, after all you've been through, the Jersey Shore is back and it is open for business."

He said his message to residents in storm-ravaged New Jersey also holds true for those in Oklahoma recovering from the May 20 tornado that killed 24 people and devastated the community of Moore.

"When we make a commitment that we got your back, we mean it," Obama said. Gesturing to his host, Obama praised Christie for the "the great work he's done here" in leading the recovery effort.

A crowd of almost 4,000 gathered in ponchos and raincoats to see the president, who earlier Tuesday joined Christie at an arcade in nearby Point Pleasant Beach, where about half the boardwalk was destroyed in the storm. Christie won a stuffed bear as he and Obama milled about, chatting like old friends in a visit that underscored their status as the odd couple of politics.

"Republicans, Democrats, independents - we all came together, because New Jersey is more important and our citizens are more important than any kind of politics at all," Christie said later as he introduced Obama.

For Christie, the president's appearance was yet another way to showcase his beloved Jersey Shore. The Republican governor has been touting it throughout the Memorial Day weekend as a destination point that is back in business, and he broke a Guinness world record Friday by cutting a 5.5-mile-long ceremonial ribbon that symbolically tied together some of the towns hardest-hit by Sandy. The state has a $25 million marketing campaign to highlight the shore's resurgence in time for the summer season.

Both men reprised the remarkable bipartisan tableau they offered during Sandy's immediate aftermath, when Obama flew to New Jersey just days before the November election to witness the storm's wreckage. Politically, the visit plays well for both men. Christie, seeking re-election this year, was able to stand shoulder to shoulder with a president popular among Democrats in a Democratic-leaning state. And Obama, dueling with congressional Republicans on a number of fronts, got to display common cause with a popular GOP stalwart.

To be sure, New Jersey is still rebuilding. Obama visited those regions that have been among the first to recover - Christie ranks the recovery of the state's famous boardwalks as an eight on a scale of 10 but concedes that in other parts of the state many homeowners are still rebuilding six months after the devastating superstorm struck. Overall, the storm caused $38 billion in damages in the state, and harmed or wrecked 360,000 homes or apartment units.

But the coastal recovery is a big potential boon for the state, where tourism is a nearly $40 billion industry.
"I could see being a little younger and having some fun on the Jersey Shore," Obama said to laughter. "I can't do that anymore. Maybe after I leave office."

Christie says the President was most interested in what progress has been made, and what is still needed at the shore during his visit Tuesday.

Christie told News 12 New Jersey that he asked Obama to help get families back into homes. The governor says they are not friends, but have an good working relationship.