GOP Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump went on the attack against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie this week, a move that some say points to a resurgence for the presidential hopeful as the New Hampshire primary draws nearer. Trump blasted Christie for what he sees as economic mismanagement of New Jersey.
That confrontation, however, is just one in a long line of such incidents that has come to define Christie’s pursuit of the candidacy. The Governor—whose tagline during this election is “telling it like it is”—has long built a reputation as a combative force, something that has only intensified with the added national spotlight that comes with the mounting national attention created by a presidential run.
As the primaries draw nearer, it seems that Christie’s main concern should be on his opponents’ focus on his economic record, even as he becomes more relevant in New Hampshire
During the first GOP presidential debate in August, a confrontation Christie had with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was one of the most memorable points of the evening. Christie, a former U.S. attorney, blasted Paul for his push to end NSA wiretap programs. Paul, who often is seen as Libertarian-leaning, thinks that the taps give the government cause to spy on residents. Christie thinks they are a matter of national security.
“When you’re sitting in a subcommittee just blowing hot hair about things like that, you can say things like that,” said Christie, simultaneously lumping Paul’s fellow Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio into the mix. By Christie’s logic, the senators running lack the executive leadership experience to warrant a rise to Commander in Chief.
Though former HP CEO Carly Fiorina is now at the back of the pack, she was the target of Christie’s attention during the second GOP debate on September 17.
During that debate, Christie told Fiorina not to interrupt him and accused her and Trump of needlessly comparing their business records.
“We don’t want to hear about your careers!” he said. “Stop this childish back and forth!”
For the fourth round of Republican debates, Christie was bumped to the earlier Kid’s Table debate where he had to spar with a new opponent: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. During that the debate, Jindal chided Christie for his economic record in New Jersey (New Jersey has had budget increases during Christie’s tenure while Louisiana has had cuts during Jindal’s, he said). Jindal also called Christie a “big government Republican.”
“My point is this,” Jindal said. “If politicians say they’re going to be conservative, say they’re going to cut spending, but they don’t do it, why should we send them to D.C.?… Let’s not just beat Hillary, let’s elect a conservative to the White House.”
Christie countered: “If you go to New Jersey, they’ll call me lots of different things. A liberal is not one of them.”
Despite that showing, viewers of the debate felt Christie did well overall, excelling over his lesser-known opponents.
Christie was bumped back to the main stage for the December Republican debate where he faced Jeb Bush. Bush was initially considered a frontrunner but, with primaries approaching, he is lagging even behind Christie in what is considered one of the most critical primaries states in the country: New Hampshire.
That lag sent push the former Florida Governor on the attack with Bush blasting Christie for his economic record in New Jersey, particularly the state’s credit downgrades under his watch.
“I would say it’s the record of accomplishment—my record in Florida compared to his,” Bush told the Huffington Post. “When people look at it, I’m a reform-minded conservative that got to do big things. He didn’t. He hasn’t. We were AAA bond rated. He’s had credit downgrades. We led the nation in job growth. New Jersey hasn’t done as well.”
What makes the dynamic between Bush and Christie most interesting is that both are relying on strong turnout in New Hampshire to keep them in the race. In fact, Christie has spent more time in the state than any other candidate up to this point. As with Trump, Bush’s attention to Christie demonstrates that Christie is becoming a more real threat in the state.