Gov. Chris Christie heaped praise on President Barack Obama and talked about how ``cool'' it is to visit the White House during a conversation with first-graders in Camden on Monday.
The Republican governor, who was in the city to tout a new education partnership, stopped by U.S. Wiggins Elementary School in the morning, where he visited teacher Emily Vosseller's eager first-grade class. Christie has scaled back his availability with reporters in the wake of a scandal over traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge orchestrated last year by his staff.
Crouched on a small chair on one corner of the classroom's brightly colored carpet, Christie was peppered with questions from the kids as his chief of staff was back in Trenton being questioned by lawmakers about the apparently politically motivated bridge lane closings.
"What is it like in the White House? It's cool,'' Christie told the class, describing paintings of former presidents hanging on the walls. ``There's lots of history there.''
"I've been to the White House lots of times, but it never gets boring. ... When you walk through those gates to get to the White House, it's always exciting,'' he said.
Christie, a potential 2016 contender known for his bluster, also said the visits come with a dose of anxiety. ``Anybody who says that they don't get nervous in front of the president or at the White House isn't telling you the truth,'' he said.
Christie told the kids he knows Obama ``really well'' and said the two have a strong working relationship.
"And he's been a good friend to New Jersey, especially after the hurricane. A very good friend,'' he said.
"We spend, you know, a good amount of time together. So I like him,'' he added. ``He's a nice guy.''
Christie was criticized by some for appearing too chummy with Obama in the aftermath of Sandy, as Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney was fighting to oust him from office.
Christie, who said again on Monday that he will decide whether to make his own run in early 2015, was also mistakenly asked by one of the kids about how he'd won the White House.
"I didn't become the president. I'm the governor,'' he said to laughs, quickly assuring the student the mistake was not a problem.