A day after one of his biggest rivals landed Gov. Chris Sununu’s coveted endorsement, Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie used a town hall event to cast himself as the moderate candidate more in line with Sununu, especially when it comes to abortion.
The former New Jersey governor wasted no time wading into a thorny issue that Democrats have used as a reliable rallying cry. Before an American Legion hall packed full of potential voters, Christie decried a recent Texas Supreme Court decision barring emergency abortions and took the opportunity to criticize Sununu’s pick, South Carolina Republican Nikki Haley, for seemingly tip-toeing around the issue during last week’s fourth Republican debate.
“This is a disturbing pattern,” Christie said about Haley. “If the question is really hard, she wants to make everybody happy. But you can’t sometimes. You have to answer the question. Be wary of the person who won’t answer your questions.”
Christie later answered questions about his views on illegal immigration and said the first thing he’d do if elected president would be to sign an executive order deploying the Army National Guard to secure the Southern border.
“The National Guard is here to protect the nation, inside the country, and we need to use them to protect our borders,” Christie said.
Following the event, Christie told reporters Sununu’s endorsement of Haley would not change his Granite State strategy “one bit.”
“In the end, these voters are not going to be told by anybody who to vote for,” he added before stressing his commitment to continuing his New Hampshire campaign. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Christie currently trails Haley by more than six points, placing him third among Republicans, according to the Real Clear Politics average of recent New Hampshire polls. With an average lead of more than 25 points (44.3 to 18.7) over Haley, former President Donald Trump remains the New Hampshire favorite.
Christie sits at 13 points, four more than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, but stressed polling data is not dictating his campaign.
“If the polls were right, right now Hillary Clinton would be in her second term,” Christie said, noting that the polls in 2016 predicting a Trump loss to Clinton were inaccurate because voters were hesitant to be forthright with pollsters.
“The opposite is now happening,” Christie said. “It’s simply not politically correct as a Republican to say you’re against Trump.”
One impact of the polls could be to keep Christie off the stage if debates are held in Iowa or New Hampshire ahead of their prospective contests. DeSantis has repeatedly said he was ready to debate “anytime, anywhere,” while Haley has been less committal. Asked by NHJournal about debating, Christie was blunt.
“I’m with Ron on this. ‘Anytime, anywhere.’ The voters deserve to hear from us. I think Haley is afraid because she’s going to get caught giving different answers in Iowa than in New Hampshire. But she can’t run out the clock.”
The former New Jersey governor has also been blunt about his views on Trump and repeatedly said the leading GOP nominee is “unfit to be president of the United States,” something he noted that none of the other Republican candidates is willing to say.
“Nikki Haley was asked about that, and so was Ron DeSantis on the stage at last week’s debate, as were all of them,” Christie pointed out before noting that neither was willing to publicly call out Trump. “If (Nikki) Haley thinks he’s so fit to be president, then she should run as his running mate.”
“There’s more dancing going on there than there is on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’”