There were as many Massachusetts license-plates as New Hampshire ones in the parking lot of Hampton Academy where Chris Christie held a town hall on Sunday morning, and more fading bumper sticks for Gov. Charlie Barker’s failed 2010 campaign than glossy stickers for Christie’s suddenly hopeful 2016 run.
A campaign source told Breitbart that 500 people registered for the event, but guessed the headcount at about 350.
The room was packed wall-to-wall, and everyone was eager to see the New Jersey governor glow after his humiliating defeat of Sen. Marco Rubio in the previous night’s prime-time debate. That victory was made all the sweeter by the complaining phone calls from Rubio’s fans to Christie’s campaign office.
But the son of Jersey played modest once he appeared. Journalists and supporters alike had begged him to swing at Rubio sooner, Christie explained. Back then, he promised his supporters that “I will engage at a time and place of my choosing,” the candidate said.
That was the set-up, then came the hit — “I chose to engage last night,” Christie declared to raucous applause.
He likened Rubio to Barack Obama, another first-term senator who was ill-prepared for the nation’s highest executive office. Lancing Hillary Clinton (who’s vowed to govern in the Obama mold if elected) and Rubio at once, he warned voters against choosing “four more years of the same kind of incompetence.”
Rubio’s malfunction on the debate stage last night was only a taste of the Florida junior senator’s inability to hold up under pressure, Christie said. “When the lights go on I told you he wouldn’t be ready. Well, the lights went on last night.”
It wasn’t all about Rubio, though.
Christie, who’s fond of touting his executive experience, and can strike an emotional chord with expert precision, gave a heartfelt response to a question about what he would do in the event of nationwide infrastructure failure.
He recalled the ordeal he faced during Hurricane Sandy, where he was called on not only to restore the peace — and the electrical power — but to support the people of New Jersey emotionally, and to be the state “Comforter-in-Chief”.
But he also made sure to claim his own readiness, by offering an aggressive speech promising a tough line against Iran.
“I’m for regime change in Iran,” Christie declared, saying President Obama’s kid-glove dealings with the Islamist theocracy have failed to mitigate their hatred for the “Great Satan,” the United States.
The foreign policy pitch is a safe pitch — there’s a strong consensus in the GOP for a strong international stance, and there’s little expectation for specific promises that might anger constituencies if President Christie follows through or drops the ball.
The foreign policy pitch also sidesteps many of the issues that splits the possible Christie voters from possible Christie donors — abortion, migration, judges, trade treaties, guest-workers, taxes, and so forth.
So he could push forward with a three-pronged, no-risk ultimatum towards Iran — President Christie will get a resolution to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapon power, by force if necessary; he’ll end all negotiations until Iran recognizes the right of Israel to exist; and he’ll revive the U.S.’s idealistic commitment to democratic reform there..
But if he does get to the White House, he’s probably have plenty of time and opportunity to focus his supporters on easier political battles that are a lot closer to the Jersey Shore than to the Persian Gulf.