Booker: Christie GOP’s Most Underestimated 2016 Candidate

NEWARK (AP) -

Don’t count Chris Christie out.

That was the message Monday from Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who said he believes New Jersey’s Republican governor is the “most underestimated” presidential candidate in the crowded 2016 GOP field.

“I think he’s one of the more talented political people that are out there today,” said Booker, speaking at a lunch event organized by Politico in Newark.

Booker and Christie have long been friends despite their political differences. Christie’s campaign has been struggling to gain momentum as he faces a field of more than a dozen other candidates. But Booker said he believes Christie’s chance of winning the nomination is “better than people think it is.”

Booker, speaking during a wide-ranging interview, also bemoaned the state of the region’s transportation infrastructure, which he described as in “crisis.” New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains suffered major delays last week that infuriated commuters — adding to frustrations that Booker shares.

“We should be ashamed of ourselves,” he said. “We inherited the best infrastructure on the globe from our grandparents … and we’ve taken that inheritance and squandered it.”

The former Newark mayor has also been talked about as a potential vice presidential contender, but he said he’s more interested now in supporting Hillary Clinton, who he said has the clearest pathway to the White House.

“I think the vice presidency is not a focus and not important right now,” he said.