WASHINGTON -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie isn’t worried about the negative press swirling around his likely 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. He isn’t concerned that the New York Times columnist Gail Collins declared his campaign toast. And he isn’t bothered that he is trailing in every relevant opinion poll.
“Is the election next week?” Christie asked rhetorically during an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday. “If I decide to run for president, I don’t care what polls say 21 months before we elect the president of the United States. I’ll take my chances on me -- I’ve done pretty well so far.”
Addressing the crowd of conservative activists and voters at CPAC has become a rite of passage for Republican presidential candidates. Christie told jokes and touted his experience as a governor at the event this year. He also jabbed at the White House and the rest of the Republican field.
Christie mostly stayed away from controversial topics. Asked twice about immigration, he replied by pointing to his record on taxes and education. He hasn’t taken a position on how the country should handle the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. And where he falls on this issue could be a large distinguishing factor in a primary race between him and Jeb Bush or the rest of the conservative field.
He took a few pokes at Bush when asked how he could overcome the former Florida governor’s sizable fundraising network and well-known family. “If the elites in Washington make backroom deals about who the next president is going to be, he’s definitely going to be the front-runner,” Christie said.
Ingraham pointed out that Bush isn’t taking unscreened questions at his speeches, unlike what Christie does at his town-hall meetings. “Everybody who aspires to high positions of leadership in their state and their country should be willing to take unscreened, unrehearsed questions from the people who pay their salary,” Christie said.
The New Jersey governor dismissed the idea that his brash approach could cause him problems, as exemplified by the time he told an opponent at a press conference to “sit down and shut up.” Instead, he offered the conservatives a little red meat: “There is so much ridiculous being spewed, especially out of the White House, and somebody should say, ‘Shut up,’” he said.
Christie touted his abilty to get things done as governor and to compromise. "I wake up every morning with a Democratic Legislature, so I wake up every morning know I’m not going to get everything I want," he said.
He didn’t mince words about what he dubbed the “elite” New York Times, getting cheers by saying he isn’t a subscriber and that he doesn’t care what the newspaper writes about him. Asked by Ingraham what he gave up for Lent, Christie said he told his priest he was going to forgo the Gray Lady. But the priest told him that this wasn’t an acceptable sacrifice.
“It has to be something you’ll actually miss,” Christie said, drawing laughter with the closing line of his appearance.