New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in an extensive interview with Fox News, defended his public praise of President Obama in the wake of Superstorm Sandy but made clear he’s no ally of the president – ripping ObamaCare, and saying his foreign policy style has created a “dangerous” vacuum in the world.
The Republican governor, considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate, addressed his complicated relationship with the GOP base, and the president. While his no-nonsense style and victories over powerful unions are what elevated him to the national spotlight, he continues to face conservative skepticism for, among other things, praising Obama for the federal response to Sandy, shortly before the 2012 presidential election.
Christie, speaking with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly on “The Kelly File,” rejected the notion that this in any way hurt Mitt Romney in the race, citing statements from the GOP nominee himself.
“I’ve seen him publicly say over and over again that it had absolutely no effect or role in the race,” he said. “Secondly, the other thing that Romney said to me at the time was ‘you’re doing your job.’”
The governor noted that he campaigned hard for Romney, and said that in praising the Obama administration’s storm response – at the time, he called the president’s leadership “outstanding” -- he was just being honest. “If I had to do it again I would say the exact same thing,” Christie said.
But the governor did not pull punches when asked about Obama’s leadership on the world stage, and recent polling showing more Americans think the United States is weaker today.
“When we retreat and we pull back, others feel that vacuum. And that’s dangerous for our country and it is sad for people around the world who are yearning to be free,” Christie said. “And so from my perspective, the sense that others around the world have, and I’ve heard this from people around the world, that we’ve pulled back, that we’re not as involved as we used to be.
“I think that’s a problem and I think that’s what buttresses the sense that people have that we’re weaker than we were before,” Christie said.
The governor, who spoke with Fox News on Friday, also said “the jury is still out” on whether Obama is a transformational president, but argued that he’s changed things for the worse on health care.
With the deadline for ObamaCare open enrollment technically hitting on Monday, Christie said the law has been “really, really injurious to the country’s long term economic health and to our health care system.”
Christie has, over the past year and a half, been welcomed back into some parts of the conservative fold. He was invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference this year, after getting snubbed in 2013. And he was invited to address the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas over the weekend, hosted by GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson.
As for those who’ve taken issue with his friendliness toward Obama after Sandy and aspects of his leadership style, Christie makes no apologies.
“These are the ABCs of me. You ask me a question, I’m gonna give you an honest answer,” he said. “Some days it may serve your political purpose and some days it might not. But in the end, the comfort you should take from it is I’m not changing as the wind blows.”
Christie has tangled with Tea Party-aligned Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., over the past year over the governor’s push for disaster relief funding. Christie, asked about the possibility of Paul running in 2016, said only that he’d be a “credible candidate.” But he did not include Paul when asked to name the top three potential candidates – excluding himself – for 2016.
“I don’t know if I could restrict myself to three but I’ll give you the ones I think are really good,” he told Fox News. “I think [former Florida Gov.] Jeb Bush would be an outstanding candidate for president. I think [Wisconsin Gov.] Scott Walker would be a good candidate for president. I think [Wisconsin Rep.] Paul Ryan would be a good candidate for president.”
As for himself, Christie says he’s still in the “decision-making process.”
Christie discussed 2016 politics on the heels of a report that cleared him in the scandal over the controversial lane closures by the George Washington Bridge last year. The report was conducted by a law firm his office brought in to review the case – other investigations are still ongoing.
Christie indicated the scandal would not impact his decision on whether to run.
“If you don’t have baggage, they’ll create baggage for you. That’s politics in America today. That’s the way it goes,” he said. “In the end, people don’t judge you on that stuff. People look into your eyes and they try to decide what’s in here and that’s how they vote. They vote for what they believe is in your heart.”