NEW YORK — For New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, leadership often came with an empathetic hug. For New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, it came with an angry tirade at utilities slow to restore power. For New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it came with cool, businesslike assurance.
Experts in leadership and disaster response interviewed by The Associated Press gave all three chief executives high marks for their performance so far in Superstorm Sandy, a disaster that left more than 100 people dead and presented perhaps the biggest crisis-management test yet for three Northeastern politicians who have all been rumored to hold presidential ambitions.
“Throughout the country, what the American people seek is a kind of authenticity in their public leaders, and these three guys have demonstrated that authenticity throughout this crisis,” said Syracuse University political science professor Robert McClure.
Most of those interviewed said Christie stood out for being the most outspoken and ahead of the curve, whether he was ordering gas rationing nearly a week before anyone else, putting his GOP credentials on the line to praise the Obama administration’s response or using a televised briefing to comfort children with a simple: “Don’t be scared.”
He got so much attention that he even poked a bit of fun at himself with a cameo over the weekend on “Saturday Night Live,” where he appeared in the familiar blue fleece jacket that he has worn following the storm.
All three men took firm command before Sandy arrived. Cuomo closed New York City’s subways and tunnels hours before there was a threat of flooding and strategically “pre-positioned resources” days before, a move the federal transportation secretary later praised. Christie struck a get-tough note in ordering people to clear out along the coast, barking, “Don’t be stupid” on Twitter. Bloomberg calmly ordered an evacuation of the city’s low-lying areas.
And their leadership continued after the storm had passed.
“Not being a Christie voter and not particularly appreciating a lot of what he’s done as governor, you have to give the guy an A-plus,” said Doug Muzzio, political science professor at New York City’s Baruch College. “He was totally engaged, and he was engaged in a way that Bloomberg certainly wasn’t and even Cuomo wasn’t, and that was in a very visceral way. He not only managed, but he led.”