Gov. Christie made Hurricane Sandy a focal point Sunday in New Hampshire, returning to the 2012 storm to tout his reception of President Obama at the Jersey Shore as a mark of leadership.
Highlighting a moment that still rankles some in his party, the Republican governor said at a town-hall meeting in Peterborough that "when the president of the United States shows up, you do two things. You treat him with respect, and you show him the problems and ask him for help."
"If the third thing you wanted me to do was wear my Romney sweatshirt, sorry, I wasn't going to do it," Christie said.
Christie, who toured the Shore with Obama days before the November 2012 election, addressed critics who ask: "'How could he have treated the president that way?' My question to you is, how could I not?"
Christie wasn't specifically asked about his moment greeting Obama -- which some Republicans have derisively branded as a "hug." (Christie was photographed shaking Obama's hand, and the president put his hand on the governor's shoulder.) Instead, he brought it up after a woman asked him what she described as a "personal" question: Had he ever cried in office?
"Yeah, multiple times," Christie said. He said he had cried on the day he took the oath of office. Then he began talking about Sandy – telling the story of a visit to Sayreville, N.J., where he met a distraught woman.
"If I close my eyes, I can still smell it – that rancid smell of dirty water," Christie said, describing the smell inside the woman's home. The woman showed him an armchair that had been her late husband's favorite place to sit.
"She said, it's my most precious memory of him, and it's ruined, governor,'" Christie said. "If you don't cry then with her, you've got nothing in you."
The personal tone of the meeting continued, as Christie – asked to name his biggest weaknesses – described his struggle with weight loss.
"I was too big," Christie said. "Everything you can think of, I tried." His weight became an issue in his public and personal life, he said, and he decided to have weight-loss surgery.
Christie said that while he hasn't disclosed how much weight he lost, if people look at pictures of him three years ago, "it's a lot," he said. He said he wasn't "one of these guys who would go out and proselytize about losing weight, because I know how hard it is."
Other notable moments Sunday:
--Joining Christie Sunday was Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who won election last year after getting backed by Christie and the Republican Governors Association.
Hogan, who was diagnosed with lymphoma after his election, recently announced he was cancer-free. At the start of the meeting, Hogan cut off a green bracelet Christie had been wearing in support of the fellow governor's battle.
--In an unusual twist, Christie earlier Sunday met the Marine pilot who had flown him and Obama that day. The pilot, Peter Reitmeyer, had come to Billy's Sports Bar in Manchester with a photo of Christie and Obama walking off the helicopter.
Reitmeyer, who lives in Annapolis, Md., said he was visiting New Hampshire. When he learned Christie was going to be in town, he "ran over to CVS" and printed off the photo. In black permanent marker, Christie signed it and wrote: "Thanks for the ride."