CAMDEN – Lest fellow politickers mistake his recent out-of-state travels or his red-on-blue bonding with compatriots across the aisle over issues like bail reform and Atlantic City as a mix-up of priorities, Gov. Chris Christie this afternoon found himself stomping out notions that he’s advanced his own political ambitions at the expense of the state’s Republican party.
That includes the senate race of obscure policy-wonk Jeff Bell, whose “broke” campaign, in the candidate’s own words, has sputtered on the launch pad as Democratic contender U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) flies circles around it.
Christie, asked about an upcoming fundraiser for Bell, took the opportunity to defend his image against those who see him as forsaking a commitment to his own party by focusing on national campaigns as head of the Republican Governors Association. He said he “grows weary” of the implication that he’s neglected the NJGOP during his time as governor.
“I’ve spent plenty of time helping the Republican Party in New Jersey and I’ve spent plenty of time helping Republican candidates in New Jersey,” Christie said, adding that he’s raised $21 million over the last four years for the state GOP. “And if we had unlimited fundraising capability in New Jersey, where I could write a check for any one, I would’ve raised a lot more than that.”
“I think I’ve done pretty well,” he added.
That Christie has done a somewhat less-than-stellar job leading the state’s Republican Party is a notion that has gained some traction in recent weeks, particularly in light of a deficit-ridden New Jersey Republican State Committee, as well as Bell’s senate campaign, which some see as lacking concerted support from the party. An ELEC report showed the NJRSC running a $300,000 deficit, and Bell, running his campaign out of a hotel lobby, had $0 cash-on-hand at last count.
Sources say both of those things attest to a governor more concerned with his political aspirations than the welfare of his own party. But Christie, claiming he’s done “everything Jeff has asked” of him when it comes to Bell’s campaign, shrugged the assessment off.
He pointed to two fundraisers set for Bell in the next two months, as well as one for the state committee — a birthday-bash for Christie, in fact — as evidence of his support for his party.
“I am friends with Cory Booker, there’s no great shock there,” Christie said of the Democrat with whom he’s had a productive relationship, some say to the detriment of Bell’s own bid. “But I’m voting for Jeff Bell.”
Christie, who was in Camden today touring the cafeteria and a first grade classroom at the Octavius V. Catto Community Family School, also spoke about his birthday fundraiser’s special quest, former governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Both Christie and Romney have been touted as possible presidential candidates in 2016, and a reporter asked if there was any hesitation in inviting a potential primary opponent to his birthday.
“This isn’t, like, warfare, everybody,” Christie responded.
“If people wind up seeking the same political office because they think they have something to bring to the table to help, in this instance their country, that’s a great thing,” he said. “I can tell you this: I had no hesitation to ask Mitt Romney to come, and he seemed to have no hesitation in saying yes. I think that’s the relationship of two mature adults who like each other and consider each other friends, which we do. Whether he decides to run for president or whether I decide to run for president that’s off into the future. And I don’t understand what the problem is.”