Christie Attacks Republican Rival as Elite Candidate

Chris Christie says Jeb Bush is only the frontrunner if “elites in Washington” decide the nomination.

Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey answers questions at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey answers questions at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

New Jersey governor Chris Christie attacked his chief rival for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Jeb Bush, on Thursday as an establishment candidate who is afraid to face voters.

Bush, the son and brother of two former American presidents, is “definitely the frontrunner” if “the elites in Washington” who make “backroom deals” decide the nomination, Christie told a gathering of conservative activists in National Harbor, Maryland.

Christie also emphasized his candor and interactions with voters, suggesting Bush — who was recently profiled by the political news website Politico as an “introvert” — was unwilling to take “unscreened, unrehearsed” questions.

If the people of the United States decide to pick the next president of the United States and they want someone who looks at them in the eye, connects with them and is one of them, I’ll do OK.

Christie, who has yet to formally announce a candidacy for the 2016 election, was considered an early frontrunner until it was revealed two years ago some of his staffers had conspired to create a traffic jam in Fort Lee, across the Hudson River from New York City, apparently in retribution for the city’s mayor’s refusal to endorse him for reelection. Christie has denied knowledge of and involvement in the deliberate lane closures.

Governing in a state President Barack Obama won by almost 18 percentage points in 2012, Christie’s ability to win over centrist and Democratic voters could still make him a viable contender in the general election. However, he may struggle to win his party’s nomination.

Asked on Thursday if he can compete with more reactionary candidates, Christie said, “I just stand on my record. I’m pro-life.”

Bush, who all but announced a candidacy in December, is similarly mistrusted by rightwingers because of his moderate demeanor and support for immigration reform. He has nevertheless won the support of many big Republican Party donors and could raise between $50 and $100 million for his campaign by the end of the first quarter of the year, Politico reports.

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