MILWAUKEE — Tuesday night will be Chris Christie’s first experience as a member of the “undercard” debate, and in an interview just hours before he appears on stage at the Milwaukee Theater, the New Jersey governor told The Daily Caller that he’s undeterred.
During the interview, Christie discussed what it will be like to appear on a Donald Trump-free stage, what his support from blue states says about his candidacy, and whether he now regrets not running for president in 2012.
The Daily Caller: You’ve moved to the smaller debate tonight. Do you sense an advantage in that arrangement?
Gov. Chris Christie: Listen, I sense an advantage anytime I’m on a stage. When I have the opportunity to stand up there, answer questions, and relate to people I always do well. I’ve done well in the first three debates when there were 10 or 11 people up there. I’ll do really well tonight with four people. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is kinda how you’re going to communicate to people and what your message is. So, I don’t think it matters. I think tomorrow, you’re going to be talking about me like you’ll be talking about a couple other folks from the first debate.
TheDC: Right, but your presence in the field has often been the outsized one — the guy who’s willing to tell it like it is. And you’ve been up against Donald Trump — and, granted, he’s a very different character. He comes from a very different background — but he’s sort of occupied that character position for awhile of “Hey, I’m the plainspoken one,” and you’ve sort of been left to the side as a result. Do you think this debate now is going to be a big advantage for you without him up there?
CC: Well, no, because he’s still here. So, as you guys cover things tomorrow, I’m sure Donald will be part of the story. And I’ll be part of the story too. I don’t think that changes. And I don’t think that I change who I am to adjust to what’s going on in the race. You just have to be who you are because people detect it when you’re trying to be something different and it doesn’t work.
TheDC: 538 recently published numbers about your blue state support. Eighty-five percent of your itemized contributions come from states that have elected Democrats since 1992, to the presidency. What do you think that says about your candidacy that you have such broad support, specifically, from blue states?
CC: It says I’m going to beat Hillary Clinton — which is what we all should be focused on. I’m going to give her a tussle in every one of those states that they have been able to take for granted the last couple of cycles. They will not be able to take them for granted with me. And, so I think that as we focus on who we nominate to prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton — and win — I think there will be more and more focus on me and my ability to have done that. These guys who operate in red states, it’s great. I’d love to operate in a red state, but you know what, when you show you win the blue state, and you see those contributions that we’re getting from those places, as you note, I feel like that’s a real tell-tale sign of how we’re going to do against Hillary Clinton next fall.
TheDC: OK, my last question is, it seems like in presidential politics, it’s often more about the moment than the candidate — you may feel differently, obviously — but there was a moment four years ago when you were being pressed to join the race. And it was certainly considered your moment. Do you have any regret about the way that that decision played out, that now you’re running for president?
CC: No, because I wasn’t ready to be president four years ago. And I think the only thing worse than running for president and losing, is running for president and winning when you’re not ready, cause then you’ll ill serve the American people. And so, for me, it was not a hard decision four years ago. It was a hard decision for everybody else. It wasn’t a hard decision for me. I looked in the mirror, and I knew I wasn’t ready to be president. I had been governor for 16 months. I wasn’t ready. Four years later, I’m ready. You cannot pick your political moment if you’re not prepared to be president. And I think we’ve had a president who picked his political moment and wasn’t ready to be president — and we’ve had seven awful years since then. So we shouldn’t have politicians who make those judgments based on that. You should make it based on whether you’re ready to do the job — and I’m now ready to do the job.
TheDC: Governor, thank you.