Gov. Chris Christie took a huge swipe at former Florida governor and likely 2016 Republican presidential challenger Jeb Bush during a visit to Washington, D.C. today — painting Bush as an elitist front-runner and himself as the honest populist.
“If what happens is the elites in the back rooms of Washington decides who the president is going to be, then he’s definitely the frontrunner,” Christie said of Bush, who many believe leads the pack for the nomination at this point, not to mention is considered a serious obstacle to the New Jersey governor’s own chances.
“But if the people of the United States decide who the next president of the United States is going to be, and if they want someone who is going to look them in the eye, connects with them, and is one of them, I’ll do OK if I run,” he said.
Christie was speaking at an annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee, where he joined a handful of other Republican leaders mulling bids for the party’s nomination in 2016. It was his second appearance at the annual GOP gathering.
During a 20-minute segment with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, Christie seemed to be trying hard to stake himself out as a moderate conservative with widespread appeal and champion of the middle class.
He called a “hard-working middle class” the “backbone of our economy,” and while defending his hard-nosed image as a brash politician who is regularly finds himself in yelling matches with detractors, said voters should be able to “take unscreened, unrehearsed question from people who take their salaries.”
Christie fielded a host of questions from Ingraham, on topics ranging from his position on immigration to pension and benefit reform to Common Core education standards. But it was when asked the more politically-potent ones — like where he stands in the polls (Christie ranks among the lowest of those prospective Republican candidates considering presidential runs) — that he seemed to draw the most support from the crowd.
“Now, if I decide to run for president, I’m not worried about what polls say 21-months before we’re ready to elect a new president,” Christie shot back when Ingraham pointed out he garnered only 5 percent support in a recent Iowa poll.
“If I decide to run, let me tell you one thing — I will run a hard, fighting campaign, where I will fight for the hard working taxpayers of this country, and I’ll take my chances on me. I’ve done pretty well so far,” he added.
In addition to Bush, Christie also threw jabs at Scott Walker, various critics who condemn him for his loud-mouth antics, and The New York Times.
“They’re trying to kill me,” he said of the latter, adding he is not a subscriber to the paper.