Gov. Chris Christie decided to return home Friday from the Republican presidential campaign trail in New Hampshire as a major snowstorm threatened to drop up to 18 inches of snow on New Jersey and cause coastal flooding.

The decision less than three weeks from the critical New Hampshire primary positions the governor to be the face of the state’s storm response, a role that helped propel him to political success during past storms.

"I’m sorry, NH but I gotta go home — we got snow coming," Christie wrote on Twitter. "I want to make sure the people of my state feel safe and secure."

Christie has focused much of his campaign’s resources in New Hampshire. He began rising in the polls late last year and the state could make or break his presidential bid.

Since catching flak for spending the first big snowstorm after he entered office in 2010 at Disney World with his family, Christie has put himself front and center during preparation for summer and winter storms alike, driving home public safety and preparedness messages to frazzled residents.

When Hurricane Irene was approaching a year later, Christie told people to "get the hell off the beach."

Superstorm Sandy struck in 2012 and Christie stood shoulder to shoulder with President Barack Obama, touring the seaside devastation and browbeating Republican lawmakers for dragging their feet on approving aid for the shore. His approval ratings soared, and he won re-election a year later with 60 percent of the vote.

In October, he returned from the campaign trail when it appeared that Hurricane Joaquin was going to slam into the state.

Christie spent the majority of 2015 out of the state campaigning, leaving Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno as acting governor. He has repeatedly defended his absence saying that he talks to his Cabinet regularly and uses technology to keep up with government.

"We’ve gone through this rodeo a bunch of times before. We know how to do it. We’re pretty experienced at it," Christie told reporters on Thursday, responding to questions about staying in New Hampshire ahead of the storm.

He said that he would re-evaluate the decision if circumstances changed.

After opponents attacked him for considering staying in New Hampshire — Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio among them — Christie announced Friday afternoon his wife would remain in New Hampshire but he was heading home. He planned to meet with his Cabinet and brief reporters Friday evening.

Before Christie had changed course, Democratic Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson said he he had no problem with the governor’s original decision and that much of the critical work of managing a storm response depends on rank-and-file workers.

"I’m anticipating a yeoman’s job," Jackson said. "If they don’t show, then I’ll worry."

(Copyright (c) 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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