New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sold himself to conservative activists Thursday as a fighter who shouldn’t be counted out as he mulls a run for president in 2016.
The Republican, who has struggled in recent weeks to gain momentum, was interviewed onstage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.
Christie has faced a slew of negative stories and a formidable fundraising challenge from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But he made clear Thursday he’s not dissuaded.
“Is the election next week?” Christie responded when asked about lackluster polling. “I’ll take my chances on me. I’ve done pretty well so far.”
Christie, who has largely avoided publicly criticizing his likely rivals, also addressed Bush directly, arguing that while the son and brother of former presidents may have the support of certain power brokers, he has unique appeal to voters.
“If the elites in Washington who make back-room deals decide who the president’s going to be, then he’s definitely the front-runner,” he argued. “If the people of the United States decide to pick the next president … and they want someone who looks them into the eye, connects with them and is one of them, I’ll do OK if I run.”
Christie pushed back against perceptions that he is too brash.
“Yeah, well, sometimes people need to be told to sit down and shut up,” he said, referring to a contentious interaction he had with a protester. “More of that stuff should be happening in Washington, D.C. because there’s so much ridiculous stuff being spewed, especially out of the White House.”
On his monthly “Ask the Governor” radio show Wednesday evening, Christie confronted his negative press.
He clarified remarks he made during a recent trip to the United Kingdom about “parents’ choice” in vaccines. “I am a complete supporter of vaccination,” he said, adding that he was referring solely to the issue of mandating new vaccines.
Christie said the trip was already paying dividends, despite the negative headlines, and he blamed those on national reporters “trying to justify their airfare going over there.”
Christie responded to a New York Times story outlining his penchant for luxury travel and pricey gifts.
“Are we shocked that The New York Times does this?” he asked, adding that the newspaper had already decided to endorse Hillary Clinton for president.
“Anyone who raises their head on the Republican side and looks as if … if they ran, that they might be a threat, The New York Times is going to go after. And that’s what that’s all about.”