CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA, January 29, 2016 — Coming off a presidential debate where he was a big winner, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie carried that momentum throughout Iowa. While the conventional wisdom shows him being a better fit for New Hampshire, Christie had several hundred Iowa supporters eating out of his hand.
At the Chrome Horse Saloon in Cedar Rapids, Christie was the Energizer Bunny on Red Bull. He spoke for 30 minutes and then took questions for 90 more minutes. During that time he showed the twosomes of him that mesh perfectly when they come together. He is as serious as it gets about policy, and hysterically funny in interacting with voters. He commands a room like few people ever have. He ad libs brilliantly. Whether one agrees with him on policy matters, he is one of the best retail campaigners the American political system has ever seen.
He started out by giving a big hug to an elderly woman holding a sign announcing that she was a former Hudson County, New Jersey Democrat. She now backs Christie.
From the opening moment, Christie was in Super Bowl form. Since the event was in a bar, Christie said, “I Love town halls where you can say, ‘Make way for the nachos.’” A town hall in a bar is great because of drinking. “After 25 minutes, I become smarter, more charming, better looking.” People will look at him and say, “Man that guy should be emperor.”
He masterfully weaved between serious and lighthearted. “Anyone afraid to take debate questions does not deserve your vote.”
“I think it’s ok to change your mind. I have. I freely admit it. Just tell us. Tell us why.” He mentioned the debate dustup with Rubio and Cruz on immigration. “What will they hide from you when they become president?”
“What will Hillary do in October?”
He didn’t “choose Hurricane Sandy” or a deficit. With Governors, “events choose you.” Senators keep talking until people get confused, bored, or tired and walk away.
“We elect governors for what we do when we don’t know.”
Rubio and Cruz have “never managed anything.”
He had the audience laughing very loudly with his Senate analogy. The Senate is “like grade school.” They “tell you where to sit.” They tell you “when it’s time for recess.” There is “overwhelming joy for summer vacation.”
Obama is “incompetent.” The reason “nothing works” is because “He had no experience.”
The Christie went after Donald Trump.
Being President is “not like a fake boardroom in Manhattan.”
“You can’t fire the Speaker of the House” or fellow senators.
The questions were substantive, and Christie was ready.
His detailed tax plan would still allow home mortgage interest and charitable deductions. The tax code is rigged for the rich. The solution is to reduce rates. Reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25% and allow a one-time repatriation of overseas assets for slightly more than 8% rather than 35%.
Christie kept veering between serious and funny, but it was clearly working.
“I want these people to continue to drink.”
“I’m the only candidate with an entitlement reform plan. in the Fox Business debate, Maria Bartiromo asked about Social Security. Other candidates responded by talking about their tax plans. Christie knows that discussing entitlement reform gets people angry.
“I’m from New Jersey. I’m not afraid to get you angry.”
He would raise the retirement age because “We live longer.” It would go up one month a year for 25 years. He favors a means test. If somebody is earning $200,000 a year in retirement income and has four to five million in the bank, “Do you really need $1,200 per month?”
He defended the main goal of Social Security, to make sure “nobody grows old and hits poverty.”
This was a bipartisan problem. President Lyndon B. Johnson began raiding the Social Security trust fund. Yet a Republican Congress just stole $150 billion from the trust fund and put it in the Social Security disability fund. The same thing happened with Medicare.
Christie knows these comments are not popular with everybody.
“I’m not running for prom king.”
“I’m a lawyer. I’m highly trained to make up answer on a moments notice.”
When asked about a world without nuclear weapons, Christie called it “unrealistic” and a “utopian view” that “won’t happen.”
“With health insurance, “The only way to fix Obamacare is to get rid of Obamacare.”
He brought more laughter when he got distracted by a Hillary Clinton campaign commercial that came on while he was speaking. There was no sound, but the televisions were soon turned off.
“Do you find it disturbing that I’m seeing Hillary up there? Stop!”
He continued by saying that we should let Iowans decide healthcare for Iowa. The federal government stole healthcare to begin with. Healthcare is not in the Constitution.
He was then asked how he could possibly govern when he gets tough criticism on all sides. Some conservatives think he is too moderate, while leftists like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow stalk him like Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.” How can he lead a coalition when so many people want him to fail?
Christie let it be clear that a fatal attraction from Maddow was a disturbing visual.
“The American people matter more than the media.”
“Put me in the game. Let them hit me. I hit back harder.”
“If you’re scared of Maddow,” Christie made it clear that “you shouldn’t be in this business.”
Christie has survived the toughest, largest New York media market for 13 years. “I have a thick skin.”
When you do things, you upset people. Yet when those things work, the people are then happy. Christie has seen his polls drop to 30% for taking tough stands and rise to 70% after his policies worked.
He also gave several examples of how he was much more conservative than the moderate image he has been saddled with.
He channeled Ronald Reagan’s ash heap of history in describing Socialism. Bernie Sanders is “just an old guy left over from that.”
Returning to Social Security, “The people at fault are the ones who stole the money in the first place.” The government screwed this up.
When the conversation turned to abortion, Christie got very serious.
“22 years ago, I was pro choice.” Then he heard the heartbeat of his future child, his daughter.
“I don’t think we should look down on people who are pro-choice. Treat them with respect.”
“I’ve defunded planned parenthood every year I’ve been governor.”
He even managed to get in one humorous line on this most sensitive of topics.
In the womb, “They haven’t done anything to disappoint us yet.” Returning to seriousness, being pro-life also means rescuing a 16-year-old drug addict. Get them out of lockup and into rehab. Christie is against assisted suicide. We need to be pro-life for the entire life.
He again admitted his changed position on the issue.
“Did you come out of the womb pro life, Marco?”
“Anyone who says they’ve never changed their mind is a liar.”
It seemed like Christie was ready for anything and everything. The next question dealt with illegal immigration. He responded with plenty of detail.
For illegal immigrants already living here, we need to build walling or fencing in the most popular areas of entry. Sealing off the entire border is not doable. People who are determined enough can get around walls.
Major laughter came when Christie brought up the Mexican governor. “He’s not paying for the wall.”
We need more FBI agents on the border and have to use technology drone cameras. 40% of illegals came legally through airports. They overstayed their Visas.
He retold the FedEx joke that 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told before 2012. FedEx can reach anyone.
He noted that there already exists something just as good. We have a fingerprints database. He favors e-verify. He would double fines for businesses that hire illegals.
“I will not engage in mass deportation.”
We would have to deport 15,000 people a day every day for two years. There are 27,000 arrests a day already. Mass deportations could require more than a 50% increase. Since many of them are not Mexicans, where do we send them? How do we send them? Do we use a fleet of planes? Do we use the “Big Trump plane?”
while the entire room of several hundred people was laughing heartily, Christie was showing how to use humor to defuse time bomb political issues.
On mass deportations, we don’t have the resources to do it. Christie made it clear there would be no sanctuary cities.
Asked about the military, Christie again offered real tangible specifics. Our military is at record low levels. The mullahs in Iran, Vladimir Putin, and ISIS all know this.
Christie wants a 500,000 strong army and 160,000 marines. He will increase navy ships from 260 to 350. As Commander-in-Chief, Christie will only do two things. He will clearly define the mission, and let the soldiers know he has their back. He will not be micromanaging the generals in the room.
As for precise troop movements, “I have no damn idea. I know who does.” He would “Re-empower generals.”
He stopped to help the waitress navigate her way through the crowd. “I’m not only president. I’m a traffic cop.”
More hilarity ensued when his aides signaled for him to wrap things up. Christie announced that his aides told him to allow only one more question. Therefore, he was going to allow two more questions. This was to remind his staff that “I’m the boss.” Being in these town halls is the “only time I’m free from the tyranny of the young.”
The second to last question dealt with guns. A veteran with a right to carry a concealed weapon felt that this right should extend throughout the country.
Christie reminded the room that even a tough Republican governor can only do so much with a hostile liberal Democrat legislature.
Christie wanted to honor everybody’s permit to carry. The New Jersey legislature said no. They wanted to pass a law saying that we should use “smart guns” only. There is just one problem. “They don’t exist yet!”
Carjackers and gang members already cannot buy guns because they are felons. He vetoed a bill mandating a maximum magazine capacity reduction from 15 to 10.
He pardoned six people who drove through New Jersey with legal guns and were arrested. These six cases all saw people with guns that were legal in Pennsylvania and other states cooperate with the police yet still face punishment until Christie intervened.
As president, it would be a relief for Christie to be on offense and not defense on the gun issue. Also, the “Founding Fathers didn’t put the Bill of Rights together randomly.”
Christie reminded the room that he was part of the George W. Bush team that kept us safe after 9/11.
The last questioner wanted to know how we can get young people back to the GOP when Democrats offer free tuition. once again, Christie was ready.
“Nothing in life is free. You’ll pay through taxes, not tuition.”
“People value what they earn, not what they get for free.”
“We should let kids refinance their loans” and “promote national service.”
One thing we must do is “make colleges accountable.” They should be forced to show what they’re spending their money on. They should itemize everything like a restaurant bill. The bill he received for his daughter’s college was divided only into tuition, room and board, and “other fees.” If we knew what the colleges were truly charging people for, “We’d be infuriated, they’d be embarrassed.” There are “44 Vice Presidents in charge of paperwork.” A person paying tuition should be able to “unbundle your bill.”
Again offering levity, Christie pointed out that one New Hampshire school spent money on rock climbing walls. Why would a building need to spend money on rock climbing walls when they live in the Granite State. Christie was accused of waging an “assault on fitness.” Howls of laughter came when the less than svelte pointed out that one thing he has never done is engage in an assault on fitness.
The solution is to take away taxpayer money from the colleges.
Noticing a Michigan State jersey in the Iowa crowd, Christie said, “My security detail will protect her.”
His final joke referenced the woman he hugged when he first entered. He called Jersey City one of the most corrupt places on earth. A man he knew wanted to be buried in Hudson County. When asked why, the man replied, “When I die I want to remain active in politics.”
Christie is very self-aware. While the crowd was thoroughly entertained, Christie knew how to bring things to a close.
“We’re not electing the entertainer-in-chief. We’re electing a Commander-In-Chief.”
“I’ll never embarrass you” or make people regret electing him.
Chris Christie burst onto the national scene a few years ago, reaching rock star status quickly. After declining to run for president in 2012, there were whispers that he had missed his moment. Whatever happens in the 2016 election, Christie’s remarks at the Chrome Horse Saloon showed that he has plenty of great moments left.