Perhaps the most heated battle at Tuesday night's "undercard" Republican primary debate wasn't between GOP candidates -- it involved New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Christie, who was dropped from the mainstage GOP debate to the kid's table last week due to low poll numbers, kept pivoting from his rivals to the former secretary of state as a way to score points with viewers and voters.
Christie called out Clinton by name just minutes into the event Tuesday evening, criticizing the tax code's impact on middle-class Americans who can barely pay bills for essentials. He said President Barack Obama's policies were not working, and if Clinton were elected, "we'll be in the same circumstance." His response to his second question followed the pattern: Asked about how the Republican Party can win against the Democrats' proposals of free health care and free college, Christie said Washington already had too much control over people's lives.
"If you listen to Hillary Clinton, she's made it very clear she believes she can make decisions for you better than you can yourself," he said. "We need to get the government the hell out of the way and let the American people win once again."
Christie continued to lambaste Clinton throughout the one-hour debate -- she's "the real adversary" in terms of cutting government spending, he said at one point. "Hillary Clinton is coming for your wallet, everybody."
Christie later blamed Clinton and Obama by name for a "feckless" and weak foreign policy facing China and other powers. He also alleged that she would nationalize health care and move it toward a single-payer system.
"Hillary Clinton is running so far to the left to try to catch up to socialist Bernie Sanders you can hardly even see her anymore," Christie said.
Promoting his electability in a general election, the former federal prosecutor in New Jersey said, "She doesn't want one minute on that stage with me next September when I'm debating her and prosecuting her for her vision for America."
I'm not a Christie guy, but I LOVE how he tries to bring the focus back on Hillary and not other GOP candidates. Good strategy or bad?
— Real Black Courage (@imcrews) November 11, 2015
Christie is not intending to, but he's auditioning well tonight to be someone's VP next yr and the lead GOP attack dog against HRC.
— James Hohmann (@jameshohmann) November 11, 2015
Yeah, Christie is going with the beat on Clinton strategy, a proven winner.
— Jonathan Bernstein (@jbview) November 11, 2015
The HuffPost Pollster, which aggregates national survey data, put Christie in 10th place Tuesday with the support of 2.3 percent of likely Republican primary voters. He was behind former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and just beating out Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Billionaire Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson led the pack, as they have for months now.
A separate survey released Tuesday delivered a more targeted blow to Christie: Quinnipiac University found that 61 percent of voters in New Jersey thought he should drop out, CNN reported.
Christie supporters said they were happy the candidate got any chance at all Tuesday to speak to voters, but his critics thought differently. "It's fine being in the early debate except if you weren't there the first time," Santorum strategist John Brabender told Politico.
Christie joined Jindal, Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the 7 p.m. debate at the Milwaukee Theater in Wisconsin. The primetime debate was set to begin at 9 p.m., and both events were focused on the economy, jobs, taxes and overseas issues.