Chris Christie stopped short of promising to complete his second term as New Jersey governor, argued that President Barack Obama lied to Americans about health care insurance and said fat jokes don’t bother him.
Those were among the highlights from Christie’s interviews today on four television news shows following his overwhelming Nov. 5 re-election, a victory he’s said should be a model for the Republican Party nationally.
Christie today declined to promise to finish all four years of his second term, something he wouldn’t be able to do if he were to run for president in 2016 and win.
“Who knows?” he said when asked the question on ABC’s “This Week” program. “I don’t know.”
Christie also pledged to “continue to do my job and finish the job,” while adding that “nobody can make those predictions.”
The governor said he’s only focused on the next 12 months, when asked about his presidential ambitions on the “Fox News Sunday” program.
“I know everybody is going to be speculating about what may come in my future and lots of other people’s future in our party,” he said. “But the fact is, I am focused on being the governor of New Jersey and being the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and I think those two jobs will keep me pretty busy over the next year.”
Christie, 51, won a second term with a margin of 22 percentage points after securing the majority of women and Hispanic voters, both segments his party is trying to more aggressively court.
Should Christie pursue a 2016 White House bid, his economic record will be among the areas scrutinized.
As governor, unemployment in New Jersey fell to 8.5 percent in August, from 9.7 percent in February 2010. That’s still 1.2 percentage points higher than the U.S. average for August, and tied for the seventh-highest among the states.
In “Double Down,” a new book about the 2012 campaign, it was written that Republican nominee Mitt Romney decided against picking Christie as his running mate because there were too many “red flags” tied to his previous career as a lawyer whose work included lobbying for the securities industry.
“All of these issues have been vetted,” Christie said on ABC. “If I ever run for anything again, they’ll be vetted again.”
Christie pointed to Romney’s defense of him following reports about the book.
“I’ll take Mitt Romney’s interpretation of all of this, rather than some paid political consultant who was, you know, trying to make himself famous, obviously, in the book,” he said.
Asked on ABC about a reference to an elephant on a cover of Time magazine, Christie said he ignores jokes about his weight.
“If I’m bothered by jokes about my weight, it’s time for me to curl up into the fetal position and go home,” he said.
During his interviews, Christie was mostly subdued in his criticism of the Democratic president, except on the issue of health care.
“The fact of the matter is the president didn’t tell folks the truth about what was going to happen with their own private insurance policies,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “And what I urged them to do for the last two weeks, when I’ve been on the campaign trail, is tell people the truth. That’s the thing they expect. And I think that’s why we’ve gotten the support we’ve gotten in New Jersey.”
Christie declined to weigh in on foreign policy, including his thoughts on how the Obama administration and Secretary of State John Kerry should proceed on a potential Iran nuclear deal amid reports that talks have broken down. He said he wouldn’t comment until he has more information.
“The people who are involved in this on a day-to-day basis should be making these opinions known publicly,” Christie said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program. “I’m the governor of New Jersey.”
All the media attention Christie has won in recent weeks hasn’t gone unnoticed by his potential 2016 Republican rivals.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky last week called Christie a “moderate,” a term not typically embraced by the conservative wing of the Republican Party that tends to dominate the nomination process.
On Fox, Christie said he plans to stay above the “garbage” coming from Washington, such as another recent spat with Paul in which the senator said Christie had a conflict of interest in appearing in a $25 million federally funded “Stronger Than The Storm” ad campaign.
The governor said he’s open to some gun control. In his first term, he approved tougher penalties for illegal gun possession and barred those on federal terrorism watch lists from purchasing firearms. He also vetoed a ban on the sale of .50-caliber rifles and rewrote a Democratic measure that would expand instant background checks, saying the state didn’t have the technology to implement it.
“Every time we see one of these incidents happen across the country, it is almost always exclusively with a deeply disturbed person at the helm,” he said on Fox. “What we need to do is be much more aggressive about how we deal with mental health issues in this country.”
Even before his re-election, Christie had sparked some ill-will within his party stemming from his willingness to appear with and praise high-profile Democrats.
He joined Bill Clinton in June at the former president’s Global Initiative conference in Chicago, where the two had a friendly onstage discussion about natural-disaster policy.
Republicans were especially critical of Christie for accompanying Obama on a tour of the New Jersey shore last year to inspect damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. The governor lauded the initial federal response -- words some said gave the president a pre-election boost against Romney.
Some party colleagues also were aggrieved when Christie criticized Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives for delays in approving federal assistance in Sandy’s aftermath.
Christie will also face a challenging governing environment in New Jersey, as he contemplates a potential White House bid. His political reach didn’t extend to the Democratic Legislature, where Republicans picked up just one Assembly seat.
During his first term, state lawmakers blocked Christie’s efforts to reshape the state Supreme Court and cut taxes, and sidestepped his opposition to same-sex marriage and a minimum-wage increase. Among his second-term priorities, Christie has said he’ll push for more charter schools and vouchers.
While Christie is popular in his state, residents are less approving of his handling of taxes, polls have shown.
During his campaign, Christie touted his ability to balance four budgets without raising levies. He also promoted his ability to slow the growth in the state’s property taxes by capping annual increases at 2 percent. Even so, he cut rebates, which are aimed at softening the blow of the bills.
New Jersey’s average residential property-tax bill reached a record $7,885 in 2012, up from $7,281 in 2009. In the decade before Christie took office, the taxes rose more than 70 percent.
Christie has said during his first term he’s worked to make the state more business-friendly, partly by approving $2.1 billion in tax breaks to businesses, including electronics maker Panasonic Corp. (6752) and casino operator Revel Entertainment Group LLC, in an effort to create jobs.
In September he signed a measure overhauling the system of tax breaks and consolidating five incentive programs into two. More than 250 companies have used New Jersey’s incentive programs to attract $11 billion in investments that created or retained 70,700 jobs.
Panasonic got $102.4 million from New Jersey to move its headquarters and 1,000 jobs to Newark from Secaucus after the company had threatened to move out of state. Christie attended a ribbon cutting for the facility in September.
Christie also reduced business taxes in a series of cuts that lowered the levies by $500 million in the current budget that ends June 30.
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