Christie says unscripted questions during NH Primary are ‘good preparation for being president’

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gets ready to speak to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gets ready to speak to the crowd at the Politics and Pies event at the Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Friday, December 1, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 12-01-2023 4:32 PM

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie might still have ground to make up in the Republican primary, but during a Friday morning event in Concord, he reiterated something that he’s made central to his campaign for president: He’s not afraid of a challenge.

On Friday, Christie spoke for roughly 13 minutes and took questions for 37. Two days earlier at a town hall in Meredith on Wednesday, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley spoke to an audience for roughly 37 minutes and took questions for 13.

“I took three questions last night from Trump supporters who were at my town hall because I don’t ask beforehand what you’re gonna ask,” Christie said, referencing an event he held at the Red Blazer restaurant Thursday night. “You just raise your hand, and whatever comes, comes because I'll tell you this: If you're President of the United States and a crisis comes, you don’t get to pick which crisis. You don’t get it pre-screened by your staff. When Hamas invades Israel, they don’t say, ‘Oh, this is not the crisis the president was looking for right now, so he'll deal with this sometime later.’ I think this is good preparation for being president.”

Christie asked, and he received.

He fielded questions about whether he thought Germany and Japan should be able to possess nuclear weapons, how he’d rein in the national debt and address immigration reform. He told stories about his experiences working with Democrats in the New Jersey legislature and about his recent trip to Israel to get a firsthand look at the devastation.

But it was the answer to the final question he was asked – about how he’d deal with the inevitable attacks and criticism that’d come from the media and Democrats if he was president – that struck a chord with Jay Patel, in the audience with his daughter who’s in high school.

“Bitterness and anger are wasted emotions,” Christie said was the most important lesson he learned early in his political career. “They don’t do anything for you. … When they attack you, you just redouble your effort to be even better and to rise above. Unfortunately, President Trump’s never lived his life that way. I talked to him about this concept, and he said, ‘That’s being weak.’ He’s the one under four different indictments now; he’s the one who’s facing jail; he’s the one who didn’t accomplish the things he promised he would accomplish.” 

Patel said he’s still deciding who he’ll support in the Jan. 23 primary but was encouraged by the responses he heard from Christie.

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“I looked right at my daughter when he said it –  you don’t act out of anger and retribution and all of that because that doesn’t move the dial,” he said. “I think that’s what we’re losing as a country in a lot of ways. No one wants to hear the other side, no one wants to hear things that they don’t agree with because they could be offended or whatever, but that’s what makes America, America to me. We can reasonably disagree, which, the ‘reasonably’ is kind of disappearing. I’m looking for someone that can bring that back or facilitate that.”

Although Christie often scoffs at the polling – citing the fact that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ben Carson led in polling around this point in 2007, 2011 and 2015 – recent surveys of Republicans in New Hampshire generally show him in third place, behind Haley and Trump, who’s receiving nearly 45% of the vote, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average.

With still a little more than seven weeks to go until voters head to the polls, Christie’s banking on his message, about telling the truth, doing the work and delivering results, to propel him to victory.

“It’s refreshing, just the demeanor, especially in the climate that we’re all in at this stage, where everyone feels they need to be a firebrand and whatnot,” Patel noted. “What he says makes a lot of sense and intuitively touches you in a different way I guess, at least for me. Sincere guy. That’s the first thing that struck me when I met him and talked to him.”