Twelve battleground gubernatorial contests are two close too call, according to Republican Governors Association (RGA) Chairman (and New Jersey Governor) Chris Christie.
Here is a report on the governor’s appearance this morning with Chris Wallace on Fox News.
Below is a transcript of the interview furnished by Fox.
Governor Christie joins us now from Florida, where there’s a tight governor’s race, for his first Sunday show interview in 2014.
Governor, welcome to FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Good morning, Chris. Good to be with you.
WALLACE: Governor, you just heard and we want to talk — before politics to this whole controversy about Ebola and quarantine, you just heard Dr. Fauci, New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, says reportedly she was furious that she was not informed before the quarantine was imposed. Do you no longer trust the CDC and, doctors and scientists?
CHRISTIE: Well, no, that’s pretty general statement, Chris. Of course we do. The fact of the matter is CDC protocols as Dr. Fauci admitted himself has been moving target and imagine that you’re the person in charge of public health of people of largely densely populated state, in fact, most densely populated state in the Union, and these protocols continue to move and change.
It was my conclusion we need to do this to protect the public health of people of New Jersey. Governor Cuomo agreed. And now, Mayor Emanuel agrees. And I think the CDC eventually will come around to our point of view on this.
WALLACE: And what about Dr. Fauci who says it’s not good science to quarantine people when they’re not symptomatic because they can’t spread the disease in those situations.
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I have great respect for Dr. Fauci. But what he’s counting on is voluntary system with folks who may or may not comply. We had the situation in New Jersey, Chris, as you know, with NBC News crew that said that they were going to self-quarantine and then two days later they were picking up takeout in Princeton and walking a around the streets of Princeton.
I mean, the fact of the matter is that we — I don’t believe when you’re dealing with something as serious as this that we can count on a voluntary system. This is government’s job. If anything else, the government job is to protect safety and health of our citizens. And so, we’ve taken this action and I absolutely have no second thoughts about it.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about one other aspect of it. Dr. Fauci talks about the unintended consequence. Everyone agrees that the only way you’re going to stop this crisis is to end Ebola in West Africa and the concern is that the medical workers, the doctors, the nurses, that are willing to take their chances and go over there when they hear now that they’re going to have to undergo mandatory three-week quarantine when they come back may decide not to go in the first place and, in fact, the first nurse who has gone through the quarantine in New Jersey says that she feels she was badly treated.
So, are you concerned that you’re going to disincentivize people from going over there to help stop the outbreak?
CHRISTIE: No, I’m really not, Chris, because I believe that folks who want to take that step and are willing to volunteer also understand that it’s in their interest and the public health interest to have a 21-day period thereafter if they’ve been directed expose to people with the virus.
And as we saw with what happened with some of the health care workers in Texas, with the CDC shifting protocols, we have people who are infected from that type of contact. And we just can’t have that in the New York and New Jersey area. And that’s why Governor Cuomo and I agree on this, and now, you see that they agree in Chicago as well. I think this is a policy that will become a national policy sooner rather than later.
WALLACE: All right. Let’s talk some politics. You’re in Florida as head of Republican Governors Association. Let’s put up the numbers on the governors races.
At this point, Republicans currently have 29 governor seats, Democrats, 21. But this year, Republicans are defending 22 governorships and Democrats only 14.
Governor, where do you see the count — it’s now 29-21 Republican — where do you see the count after the election?
CHRISTIE: Well, Chris, it’s interesting. You know, we’re also defending nine governorships in states that President Obama has won twice. And so, we have a pretty daunting task on our hands. And I think everybody expected us to be a little bit on our heels. It’s now, quite to the contrary, we’re on offense in more states than we’re on defense. But the fact is that we have 12 races now within the margin of error with nine days to go until election.
So, I think no one with really predict exactly where we’re going to be. And I’ve been more involved in these races than anyone on our side of the aisle. But the fact is, it’s going to be a real battle all the way down to Election Day. Because of the great job that our Republican governors have done and some of the real good things that our candidates are proposing in challenger races, I think we’re going to come through this very, very well.
WALLACE: Let me ask you briefly about Wisconsin, where some of the people around Republican Governor Scott Walker who is seeking reelection are complaining that the RGA is not doing enough to support him, and they’re even suggesting maybe the reason is because you view him as possible threat, a possible contender for presidency in 2016. Your response, sir?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen. The facts just don’t back that up Chris.
First of all, Scott Walker and I have a great personal relationship. I just spoke to Scott again a couple of days ago, and we have a great personal relationship and I’ll be going next week to campaign for him two different times.
Secondly, we spent over $6 million already in state of Wisconsin on this effort. And over the course of Scott’s three races for governor, 2010, 2012 and 2014, we spent $20 million. And so, you know, that’s just folks who are in the punditry who want to, you know, talk about backroom kind of stuff that has no relationship to reality.
I am a complete Scott Walker supporter, always have been, and we’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure he’s reelected, and I believe he will be reelected on November 4th.
WALLACE: Governor you mentioned President Obama. While he’s staying away from Democratic Senate races he’s actually campaigning in several governor races. In fact, in these final days, he’s going to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maine and Michigan. Is it harder to tie a Democrat gubernatorial candidate in state race to President Obama and his policy?
CHRISTIE: It depends who that Democrat is obviously, Chris, and what their record is. For instance, in Michigan, Congressman Gary Schauer completely supports the Obama agenda and that’s why Rick Snyder I believe, on top of the fact that he has extraordinary record of job creation and growth and bringing Detroit back in Michigan will be elected. Contributing factor, of course, is Congressman Schauer’s record of supporting the Obama agenda in Congress. So, it very much depends on who that Democratic candidate is.
But what we rely upon more than anything else are the great records and the great ideas of our Republican records and our Republican challengers.
You look at someone like Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, he’s running an outstanding race there. We’ve got a lot of great challenges around the country. Bruce Rauner in Illinois is doing a great job in that very blue state. Tom Foley in Connecticut is doing a great job in that very blue state. And keep an eye on Larry Hogan down in Maryland, also doing a good job in a very blue state.
Those are places that we’re pushing, Chris, and we may have success on election night.
WALLACE: Governor. I don’t to tell you, this is the first time that you’ve done a Sunday show since Bridgegate, the scandal about the closing of those lanes from Fort Lee, New Jersey, onto the George Washington Bridge causing tremendous traffic jam because of the fact that the mayor of Fort Lee refused to support your reelection.
There was a report in September, last month, that nine months into their investigation that federal prosecutors had found no evidence that had you prior knowledge of lane closures and yet, now, more than a month later, 10 months into investigation the state and federal investigations continue.
Question: why do you think it’s taking so long?
CHRISTIE: You know, Chris, I did this for seven years of my career. Before I became governor, I was United States attorney for the district of New Jersey. And one thing I learned very clearly is that any time that politicians try to guess what was going on in prosecutor’s offices, they’re making a big mistake.
So, I don’t speculate about that stuff. All the people of New Jersey know and need to know is that I absolutely had nothing to do with this, and that seems to be the conclusion that some folks are coming to as well, and I know it will be the conclusion ultimately also because I know the truth.
WALLACE: Well, you talk about prosecutors. That’s the federal case. The state case is being handled by state legislators. Do you think there’s an effort by some of the Democrats there to keep you under a cloud?
CHRISTIE: Of course, of course. And if you look at what those hearings have been like, they’ve been hyper-partisan and political. But that’s OK, Chris. You don’t get me complaining about these things.
The fact of the matter of this, we took steps we needed to take when we discovered that something in administration gone wrong. And now, we move on and we continue to govern and gotten things like bail reform done in New Jersey over the last number of months, got a balanced budget passed again, and did all the things that you expect the government to be doing, working with Democrats who do not want to hyper-partisan and political.
So, this is not the kind of stuff that concerns me at all. I keep doing my job and doing my job at chairman of Republican Governors Association.
WALLACE: I don’t want to go too deeply into it, but you brought up the budget. You’re taking some criticism now for the financial situation in New Jersey. You decided to cut payments to pension funds and instead of raising taxes on millionaires and businesses. The credit rating for New Jersey has actually been downgraded eight times on your watch, and the polls in New Jersey show you with your lowest favorability rating since you became governor.
What’s going on?
CHRISTIE: Well, first of all, Chris, you have to remember what we inherited five years ago — an $11 billion deficit budget, 10 years of consecutive tax increases at the state level. This was an awful mess.
And now, what have we done? We have five balanced budgets in a row. We had $2.3 billion in tax cuts to the businesses of New Jersey, 143,000 new private sector jobs and unemployment rate that’s gone from 9.7 percent down to 6.5 percent.
So, we still have work to do in New Jersey, no question. But we’ve gotten a lot of things done over the course of the last five years. I’m very proud of that record and I’m working every day to make that record even better as go forward.
So, there will always be the naysayers, Chris. There will always be the critics. But I’m there getting the job done every day and I think that’s what the people of New Jersey liked about us.
WALLACE: All right. Let’s turn to 2016. Are you going to run for president?
CHRISTIE: I don’t know. I have not made up my mind, won’t make up my mind until the beginning of next year. I’ve got 36 governor races I’m overseeing right now, in addition to a pretty busy day job, as you outlined with the questions on Ebola and the budget and others.
And so, I have not made a decision, Chris. But I’m not being coy about it. I’m obviously thinking about it. But I won’t make any final decision until next year.
WALLACE: You spoke to U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week and you made some comments that got some attention. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I am convinced that the next president of the United States is going to be a governor, and it needs to be. We had the experiment of a legislator who’s never run anything, getting on-the-job training in the White House. It has not been pretty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: You were obviously taking a shot at President Obama, but were you also taking a shot at potential candidates, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz?
CHRISTIE: No, what I was talking about is what we’ve seen in the White House over the last six years. And I think we see it over and over again with crisis that are happening both around the world and at home right now.
You need to have someone in that chair who knows how to make these decisions who have done it before and that’s why I advocate governors as the best people to be considered for president in 2016.
But no, this is direct commentary on record of last six years and, unfortunately, the fact someone who never ran anything bigger than a Senate staff may not be the best training in the world to run the biggest government in the world, Chris.
WALLACE: In that Chamber of Commerce speech, you also said, quote, “It’s time to start offending people”. And there’s one comment you made that a lot of people are taking offense to. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I’m tired of hearing about minimum wage, I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, “You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Governor, while everyone agrees that we need better-paying jobs, you know, for people who are making $7.25 an hour, the minimum wage now, they say getting increase of $10 an hour would make a big difference in their lives and that you were being cavalier about it?
CHRISTIE: Not being cavalier at all, Chris. I’m saying it exactly as I see it. What we need to do in this country is not have debate over a higher minimum wage. We have to have a debate over creating better-paying middle class jobs in the country. If that somehow doesn’t comport with what people in the political elite want, well, I’m sorry. But I know talking to families across New Jersey and now across this country that what they’re aspiring to is that good-paying middle class jobs for their children to take and even higher so that they can have a stable home life, so that they can have the ability to go away on vacation if they like to, they can have the ability to save for children to go to college.
That’s the kind of future that people in this country want. And debate we need to be having is how to have a better pro-growth economy that’s growing jobs and good-paying jobs, jobs at places Motorola Solutions or other kind of places across the country, other great businesses that operate in New Jersey and other places across the country that create those kind of great paying middle class jobs. That’s the debate we should be having.
There’s just not income inequality in this country, Chris. The bigger problem is opportunity inequality. And that’s what mothers and fathers are sitting around kitchen tables talking about wanting for their children’s future. And that’s exactly what I was saying at the Chamber of Commerce. And I don’t back off from those comments one inch.
WALLACE: Finally, Governor, we’ve got about a minute left. The last time we talked was last November, just after you had been reelected as governor. And at that time, you were the front runner for the Republican nomination in those absurdly early polls. Let’s put them on the screen.
A McClatchy-Marist national poll at that time had you leading potentially contenders at 18 percent, Rand Paul at 12, and Jed Bush at 10.
But late last month, Bush was in front 15 percent, with Paul at 13, and you at 12.
I have two questions really: one, how badly have you been damaged by Bridgegate? And secondly, what do you say to people who may like you but worried that you may be too