Newmarket, NH — He’s in eighth place in the New Hampshire GOP primary, according to one poll. He has been battered by a series of scandal-driven news story more heavily than any national politician over the last 16 months. And the pundits who judge such things say he has fallen out of the first tier of presidential contenders.
But Gov. Chris Christie nonetheless dusted himself off and flew up to the home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary Tuesday morning as a not-yet presidential candidate. He blanketed New Hampshire — delivering a policy address on entitlement reform, visiting a downtown pizzeria with three dozen reporters in tow, shaking hands on a very long line at a Ben & Jerry’s (no, he did not wag an ice cream cone at anyone), answering detailed policy questions at a bar, attending a dinner with financial backers, visiting a newspaper editorial board and chatting on a conservative talk radio show.
In other words, he didn’t stop talking. Here are some highlights:
Entitlement Reform: Christie began his day with a detailed, statistics-focused policy address about entitlement reform at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. Of all of the potential candidates for president, this is probably the most detailed proposal on Social Security that we’ve seen so far. He wants to raise the Social Security eligibility age from 67 to 69 and stop those who make $200,000 in retirement income from getting any Social Security benefits. Here was a Republican promoting a position that would adversely affect the wealthy — but on the flip side, he would eliminate payroll taxes for those older than 62. He proposed similar changes to Medicare for senior citizens. And he wants Medicaid recipients to pay co-pays and enable the states, not the federal government, to run the program.
Straight Talk: Christie’s whole shtick Tuesday was centered around telling the hard truths. And, at one point, he used the phrase “straight talk” — immediately evocative of Sen. John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” bus. McCain rode that perception to wins in the New Hampshire primaries in 2000 and 2008.
Drug Rehabilitation: Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, walked through downtown Manchester on the way to a Ben & Jerry’s. It was Free Cone Day. But the Christies didn’t stop for ice cream. Instead they took advantage of the group of captive voters and shook hands with the dozens of people waiting on line.
Legalized Marijuana: Not only isn’t he for it, as he has said before, but he would “crack down” on those states that have legalized marijuana.
“I’m good friends with Mark Zuckerberg”: He repeatedly cited the Facebook founder as the reason why rich people don’t need to collect Social Security payments.
Hillary Clinton: “If I run, I will beat her,” he said.
States That Mitt Romney Lost That He Could Win: Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Pennsylvania
Campaign Finance Reform: He would considering lifting all limits on campaign contributions but mandating 24-hour reporting of donors.
Common Core: In what appeared to be his strongest comments yet on the national educational standards that he once supported — but have now drawn the ire of conservatives — Christie said he he would be revisiting this issue in New Jersey in the coming weeks.
Why Conservatives Erroneously Think He’s Liberal: “I’m a northeast Republican who is a bit ethnic,” he said.
Bridgegate: He is not waiting on any possible indictments before deciding to run for president. And part of the reason why the scandal over the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge came about is because he’s trusting — and he delegates to aides he trusts. “At my core I’m a trusting person,” he said. “I believe in the honesty of other people. And I think, for me, I’m also someone who likes to delegate responsibility to people and let them perform and so I’m probably going to have a tighter rein on that. I have since we’ve gone forward. I ask more questions than I used to before, even of people that I have a lot of trust in.”
Governors Should Be Presidents, Not Senators (cc: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio): “I think we have tried the experiment of one-term U.S. senators who’ve never run anything in their lives,” he said.