Monday was the last day of the notion-bending year-long campaign leading to the New Hampshire presidential primary. Republican candidates have for months decried the condition of America, denouncing Barack Obama for what they see as destruction wreaked on the U.S. that has pushed the country to the edge of a precipice. With New Hampshire voting those dire descriptions will end, at least for the Granite State, as the campaign rolls on to South Carolina, Nevada and beyond.
Who’s rising, who’s falling and who will exceed expectations? Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie all had good days in the last moments of the New Hampshire primary, but they face a dual challenge of trying to shove past the other two governors and simultaneously trying to catch up to Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Here are a few impressions from the candidates’ closing appearances.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie continued his quest for the presidency Sunday, campaigning in New Hampshire on the second to last day before the New Hampshire primary. Christie began with a town hall in the Seacoast town of Hampton, speaking to about 300 people.
Christie’s crowds have grown this week but so have those of his closest rivals Jeb Bush and John Kasich. His Hampton audience appeared supportive, cheering Christie on and fully engaged as Christie prowled the small open plain at the center of a tight circle of chairs working both those fortunate enough to be seated and the 100 or so people standing in an outer circle. Christie expanded on his debate performance, dismissing Marco Rubio as an echo of Barack Obama; an unaccomplished first-term senator unprepared to be president. He gave an eviscerating imitation of Donald Trump, capturing a core Trump weakness of offering nothing beyond emotional appeal.
I like Donald. But he’s not qualified to be president. That’s the essence of Chris Christie’s cutting evaluation of Donald Trump, delivered effectively at a Hampton, New Hampshire town hall today.
Christie was humorously dismissive of Trump as unqualified, mockingly imitating Trump’s non-answers to substantial questions. While professing that he likes Trump personally and expressing empathy with the anger and frustration felt by Trump and his supporters, Christie pointed to Trump’s failure to offer basic thinking on his Mexican border wall and on dealing with the longterm financial challenges of Social Security as evidence of Trump’s utter unpreparedness for the presidency. Christie declared that Trump “has not the first idea of how to run a government.”
“How? How?” Christie characterized that question as the “core of my criticism” of Trump and applicable to most, if not all, of Trump’s campaign talk. “Let’s stop first at the moment of why” on Trump’s Mexican border wall proposal , Christie continued, saying “it’s not gonna work … unless you’re gonna make it like the Berlin Wall” Christie described privately meeting twice with the president of Mexico, declaring that “he ain’t paying for Donald’s wall.” Christie concluded by saying that “hope and luck are not a plan” and that “he’s just not the right person to be president of the United States.”
Here’s Christie’s full response and discussion:
Excerpts – Here are brief excerpts of Christie impersonating Trump:
Chris Christie made very brief comments Monday night on the Iowa caucuses results. Expecting to fare poorly in Iowa, Christie held a town hall in New Hampshire Monday night as the caucuses were being conducted. As he greeted attendees afterwards Christie was briefly asked by reporters about his own performance and about Ted Cruz’s victory.
This small rugged state teeming with presidential aspirants offers visitors unique proximity to question, praise, berate or hug the next American president.
The presidential campaign has been running in high gear for months, but New Yorkers see it only from afar. Candidate visits to New York are almost entirely out of public view, primarily for fundraising and TV appearances. New Yorkers hoping to see candidates in person can visit campaign country, however, with New Hampshire the closest corner of campaign country and just a short drive away.
Sunday 8:15 a.m. – On The Road
Meet a fellow reporter just north of New York City and drive through western Connecticut north into Massachusetts. Watch for the plentiful state troopers on I-91. Don’t let the genius political arguments bandied about distract you from the speedometer.
Sunday 11:00 a.m. – Your New Friend Irving
A stop awaits before the first campaign event – a visit to an Irving, the ubiquitous gas station/convenience store. Gourmet it’s not, but Irving offers a quick, clean stop for hot coffee, cold seltzer and a cellophane wrapped sandwich. With lots of driving between five events efficiency is a key to success. Pro-tip: Always get two sandwiches, one for now, one to tuck in your bag for a pre-candidate town hall boost.
Sunday 1:00 p.m. – Dr. Ben Carson
Keene State College is dead quiet on a Sunday morning, notwithstanding an imminent presidential candidate appearance. With Secret Service protection and security screenings for Carson, entering his town hall is a lengthier process. About 30 minutes ahead of his town hall, only 30 or so people are in the auditorium. “Don’t worry, they’ll be here after church” says an early arrival and indeed a crowd of 200+ materialized by 1:00. Chatting with attendees it appears that his audience is significantly centered around faith, both their own and Carson’s.
Spending Friday attending separate New Hampshire town halls with Rand Paul and Chris Christie highlighted two of the most contrasting Republican presidential candidates. Although they share weak poll results, generally at the tail end of the top ten candidates, they differ markedly in style and substance.
On a personal level Paul is physically compact, appearing trim and fit, seemingly reserved and not very interested in talking about himself. Christie is none of those. Although they’ve held elective office for almost the same length of time (Paul was elected in 2010, Christie in 2009), Paul is a legislator and Christie an executive, each with disdain for the other’s current branch of government. Continue reading Contrasts→
Chris Christie was gentle in his direct comments on House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation. Although he was critical of Congressional leadership more broadly in earlier comments, Christie politely said that “the Speaker obviously made a very personal decision” and “that it’s hard to tell” when I asked if in his view the House, and the country, would be better off without Boehner as Speaker.