GOFFSTOWN, N.H. (AP) – Chris Christie is pressing people in New Hampshire to avoid voting for a first-time senator in the coming presidential primary, and holding out Barack Obama as an example of what can happen when they do.
"The U.S. Senate is like school," he told a packed firehouse Wednesday. "They tell you where to go, what time to show up, what kind of questions you're going to get." The New Jersey governor said, "That's not the way it works when you're a governor, I can tell you. The issues come at you from every direction at all hours of the day and the night."
Christie's remarks were a swipe Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, two rising contenders for the GOP nomination. He's competing in particular with Rubio in New Hampshire, the state where Christie has pinned his presidential hopes. Christie's pitch centers on his executive experience as governor and a former U.S. attorney.
He said voters should have learned a lesson from electing Obama, who was in his first term in the Senate when he ran in 2008 and won the presidency.
"When the American people elected (Obama), they knew he had never run anything bigger than a 30-person Senate staff," Christie said. "We as a country put him in charge of the largest, most complex government the world has ever known, and we wonder why things aren't working the right way."
Christie has seen his stock rise in New Hampshire as people search for an alternative to Donald Trump, who continues to dominate preference polls in the first primary state, which votes Feb. 9.
Christie casts himself as a tested governor who can take on threats from the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations and often questions whether the rest of the candidates possess the experience to make tough decisions.
He'll join six other candidates, Rubio and Cruz among them, on stage Thursday night for the next Republican primary debate. But he told voters to be thinking farther ahead, to when the Republican nominee is on stage debating Hillary Clinton, who he presumes will win the Democratic nomination. If an untested candidate makes it to that stage, Christie said, Clinton will "eat you alive."
"She will pat some people on the head and cut their hearts out," he said. "Let me guarantee you one thing: She won't do that to a guy from New Jersey."