TIME 2016 Election

Romney to Host Rubio, Christie for July 4th

Two 2016 hopefuls join the 2012 nominee at his vacation home

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is hosting two of his would-be successors Friday night at his home for the July 4th holiday.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are marching in the Wolfeboro, N.H. Fourth of July parade—the largest in the state—on Saturday morning, just blocks from the Romney family vacation home in the bucolic lakeside town.

“Governor Romney heard that his friends, Governor Christie and Senator Rubio, along with their families, would be in Wolfeboro over the July 4th holiday weekend,” a Romney spokesperson said. “He and Mrs. Romney opened their home to their friends and look forward to celebrating America’s birthday.”

Both Christie and Rubio attended Romney’s E2 Summit in Park City, Utah last month and are hoping to win over his supporters and donors in the first-in-the-nation primary state. Romney told reporters at the summit that he intends to remain neutral through the primaries.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry are also participating in New Hampshire July 4th festivities on Saturday, but will be staying elsewhere.

TIME Chris Christie

Christie Opposes Exemptions for Clerks Who Object to Same-Sex Marriage

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) holds a town hall meeting at the American Legion Dupuis Cross Post 15 July 2, 2015 in Ashland, New Hampshire.
Darren McCollester—2015 Getty Images New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) holds a town hall meeting at the American Legion Dupuis Cross Post 15 July 2, 2015 in Ashland, New Hampshire.

“You took the job and you took the oath."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie broke with many in his party’s social conservative wing Wednesday, telling reporters that government employees who have objections to issuing same-sex marriage licenses should not be allowed to opt out.

While many conservatives have called for steps to protect government employees who have objections to Friday’s same-sex marriage ruling from the Supreme Court, Christie said those who work for the government should abide by their oaths.

“I think for folks who are in the government world, they kind of have to do their job, whether you agree with the law or you don’t,” Christie told reporters following a town hall at a lakeside home, noting there are laws that he enforces as governor that he disagrees with. “I’m sure there are individual circumstances that might merit some examination,” he added, “but none that come immediately to mind for me.”

Other Republican presidential candidates have stressed the importance of protecting religious freedom. Fellow GOP presidential candidate Bobby Jindal issued an executive order in May in an attempt to protect those who believe that same-sex unions should not be recognized. His executive counsel released a memo Monday arguing that state employees with objections should be protected.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee took a similar line on Sunday: “If they have a conscientious objection, I think they should be excused.”

When asked about protection for clerks who object to providing same-sex marriage licenses, Christie implied that there could be specific accommodations made for religious exemptions on a case-by-case basis. But overall, he said those trying to opt out should rethink how they are doing their jobs.

“You took the job and you took the oath,” he said. “When you go back and re-read the oath it doesn’t give you an out. You have to do it.”

TIME Chris Christie

Maine’s Tea Party Governor Endorses Chris Christie

Chris Christie, Paul LePage
Robert F. Bukaty—AP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, and Maine Gov. Paul LePage in Bangor, Maine, on, Aug. 12, 2014.

He's the first sitting Republican governor to endorse in the 2016 race

Maine Governor Paul LePage became the first sitting Republican governor to endorse a presidential candidate Wednesday morning when he boosted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the waterside Becky’s Diner in downtown Portland.

The two make an easy pair, with Christie having made a number of trips and steering more than $2 million as chairman of the Republican Governors Association to boost LePage’s re-election candidacy last year. They share a similar temperament, with both known for high-profile flare-ups in front of television cameras. Just last week, LePage joked about shooting a newspaper cartoonist who has been critical of him.

“He’s a little bit shy,” LePage quipped about Christie as he delivered his endorsement. “I’m going to work over the next year, to bring him out of his shell.”

“He’s not gonna be a politician and talk out of both sides of his mouth,” LePage told a gaggle of about 30 journalists after greeting and posing for photos with diners eating short-stacks and sipping coffee . “What he’s gonna do is tell you things you may not want to hear but you need to hear, and then he’s gonna go to work to fix them.”

Christie thanked LePage for the endorsement. “I think that says a lot about our candidacy, and quite frankly, it says more about Paul LePage,” he said. “This is a guy who knows how to make decisions.”

“He’s a great friend and he’s going to be an important part of this campaign as we move forward,” he continued.

The hastily arranged event less than 24 hours after his presidential announcement took Christie on a detour from his five-day swing to New Hampshire, where he is devoting his all, to neighboring Maine, whose caucuses proved inconclusive amid a bitter intra-party squabble in 2012.

LePage’s endorsement of Christie forty miles north of the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport comes after matriarch Barbara Bush appeared in a Republican Governors Association ad on LePage’s behalf last year, endorsing the controversial figure on behalf of herself and former President George H.W. Bush.

Speaking to reporters, Christie condemned clerks and other government officials in several southern states who have refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses after last week’s Supreme Court ruling, pointing to his own experience in New Jersey after his state Supreme Court ordered it legalized two years ago.

“I believe that folks need to enforce the law, enforce the Constitution if you’ve taken an oath,” Christie said. “Whether you agree with any particular law or not, they don’t put that caveat in your oath. The oath is to enforce the law and the Constitution.”

Christie said he was not concerned that some presidential candidates will be excluded from the stage at the first two presidential primary debates beginning next month, saying he believes he will make the cut, even as he is in danger of falling from the top 10 in several surveys.

“My view is, I intend to be on the debate stage and I intend to speak my mind and I’m sure that that will go well for us,” he said. “And we’ll see what everyone else does. But in the end, it’s up to the party and the debate sponsors.”

TIME Chris Christie

Chris Christie Criticizes Supreme Court’s Chief Justice

Gov. Chris Christie announces his presidential campaign on June 30, 2015 at Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey.
Steve Sands—WireImage Gov. Chris Christie announces his presidential campaign on June 30, 2015 at Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he is “incredibly disappointed” with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts after his opinion last week on Affordable Care Act subsidies, suggesting the jurist acted inconsistently with his opinion the following day when he opposed legalizing same-sex marriages.

Meeting New Hampshire voters at his first town hall since declaring his presidential campaign early Tuesday, Christie was asked what type of justices he would nominate to the Supreme Court. He replied that he was partial to the legal reasoning of fellow New Jerseyan, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, one of the court’s most conservative members.

“Every opinion that I’ve seen Justice Alito put out has been consistent and reasoned, and if I became President of the United States, I’d be out there looking for Sam Alitos to put on the Court,” Christie said.

“Those are the kind of justices I’m looking for,” Christie said. “If you read Justice Alito’s decisions, what they are is an absolute tribute to what the role of the court should be in my view. Which is they are not there to make laws, they are not there to make social policy, they are there to interpret the laws passed by the Congress and signed by the president, and that’s it.”

Christie continued that he was upset with Roberts, who is a member of the conservative wing of the Court but has twice ruled to save central components of the controversial healthcare law.

“I’m incredibly disappointed in Chief Justice Roberts. In two days in a row, he had two opinions that you couldn’t square with each other,” Christie said. “On Thursday, he writes an opinion on Obamacare that basically says ‘I know the words don’t say this, but I think they mean it, so I’m going to vote to keep Obamacare.’ The next day, he votes against same-sex marriage by saying the Court has no role in second-guessing the people and their legislature. Well, man, you just did it yesterday.”

Roberts authored a 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell in which he argued that a typographical error should not override the legislature’s intent to make health insurance subsidies available to those on federal exchanges. Roberts called the mistake one of “more than a few examples of inartful drafting,” but said, “A fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan.”

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” he continued. “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

The following day, Robert’s decried the majority’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in favor of nation-wide same-sex-marriage, arguing the Court was usurping the role of the legislature.

“Understand well what this dissent is about: It is not about whether, in my judgment, the institution of marriage should be changed to include same-sex couples,” he wrote. “It is instead about whether, in our democratic republic, that decision should rest with the people acting through representatives, or with five lawyers who happen to hold commissions authorizing them to resolve legal disputes according to law. The Constitution leaves no doubt about the answer.”

Alito voted with the minority in both cases.

TIME 2016 Election

Jon Bon Jovi Happy for Chris Christie to Use Songs in Campaign Launch

"My friendships are apolitical," the Democrat rocker says.

Though Governor Chris Christie has been a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, the presidential hopeful used the music of another New Jersey native Tuesday when he announced his bid for the Republican ticket: Jon Bon Jovi.

Christie likely opted not use a Springsteen song fearing that the lifelong Democrat and critic of the Bridgegate scandal might disavow him as Neil Young did to Donald Trump earlier in June. But Bon Jovi is also an avowed Democrat; his wife even hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton on Monday night, during which the rocker sang his biggest hit, “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

However, despite their political differences, Bon Jovi gave Christie his blessing to use songs like “We Weren’t Born to Follow” for his campaign, Mother Jones reports. The two met while Bon Jovi was helping with Hurricane Sandy relief. “My friendships are apolitical. And, yes, I absolutely gave him permission to use my songs,” he said.

[Mother Jones]

TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Launches Presidential Bid and Starts a Fight With His Own GOP

Democrats and fellow Republicans alike get tough talk as New Jersey Governor launches bid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie started his campaign for the White House telling supporters that Democrats and fellow Republicans alike are to blame for the dysfunction in Washington and only a strong leader who tells the truth can fix it.

“We have to acknowledge our government isn’t working any more for us,” Christie said at his high school alma mater. “We have to acknowledge that and say it out loud. And we have to acknowledge it’s the fault of our bickering leaders in Washington, D.C., who no longer listen to us and no longer know they are serving us.”

The packed audience welcomed him home as a favorite son and seemed receptive to his pitch at compromise and truth-telling. Yet it was a scaled-down version of the campaign launch his advisers once imagined. The tough-talking former federal prosecutor was once the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

Yet Christie angered some conservatives in the final days of 2012’s presidential race when he toured storm-damaged coastline in his state with President Obama, a Democrat. He later came under investigation for his allies’ role in closing lanes of the George Washington Bridge in a case of political retribution. And his donors have shifted from him and lined up with rivals with better odds such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Even in starting his run, he acknowledged he was willing to ignore his political advisers.

“We need a government in Washington, D.C. that remembers you went there to work for us, not the other way around,” he said to cheers of “Chris.” Christie continued: “Both parties have failed our country. Both parties have stood in the corner and held their breath and waited to get their own way. Both parties have led us to believe that in America, a country that was built on compromise, that somehow now compromise is a dirty word.”

If the country’s founders had not compromised, he warned, “we’d still be under the Crown of England.”

Christie’s kick-off speech, delivered without a podium or teleprompter, had the requisite dings against Obama and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. But it also had the best-of hits from Christie’s time running his Democratic-leaning state. Sometimes, that record has angered members of both parties. Tea Party-styled groups, even as he was speaking, released criticism of him as insufficiently conservative.

“I’m not looking to be the most popular guy who looks in your eyes every day and figures out what you want to hear,” Christie said, acknowledging he wasn’t running to be “prom king” or even popular. “I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. And that’s what America needs right now.”

TIME 2016 Election

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Is Running for President

Christie is running to "change the world"

(LIVINGSTON, N.J.) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has launched a 2016 campaign for president.

The Republican governor formally announced his plans in a Tuesday morning event in the gymnasium of his old high school.

He says both political parties “have failed our country” in an announcement speech calling for more compromise in politics.

Christie was once thought to be a leading White House contender, but his star has faded over the last year. He’s been hurt by a traffic scandal involving senior aides and a lagging state economy.

He joins a GOP field that already includes more than a dozen candidates.

Christie heads to New Hampshire later in the day, where he’s planning to campaign through the end of the week.

TIME Chris Christie

Chris Christie Highlights Glory Days at Campaign Launch

"No suffering in silence, if you’ve got a problem, tell me”

For Chris Christie, the gymnasium will be a familiar setting. Livingston High School is where he watched classmates play basketball and cheer the football team before big games, cheering on the powerhouse Lancers. He rose over his contemporaries—including the man who now serves as President Obama’s top economic adviser, as well as a former baseball teammate whose role in closing a bridge into New York City would dog Christie’s political future—to become a three-time student body president.

On these polished hardwood floors, trimmed in green paint, the New Jersey Governor will try to return to the rosier times, when ahead of him lay years as the Big Man on Campus at Delaware and then a high-profile posting as a young U.S. Attorney. As Christie launches his White House bid on Tuesday, his approach echoes the craggy vocals of his musical hero, a beloved figure in the Garden State with whom the politically ambitious Christie has had a tortured relationship.

“Glory days,” Bruce Springsteen bellows on the eponymous track, released while Christie in his young 20s. “Well, they’ll pass you by, glory days.”

It’s as fine a metaphor as any for the famously outspoken governor, who has descended from far-and-away front-runner to potential also-ran in a matter of 18 months.

Burdened by the lingering scandal of the politically motivated closure of approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge by former aides, including his longtime pal and fellow Livingston High School alumnus David Wildstein. The state’s fiscal malaise has taken its toll; the wonk a year ahead of Christie, White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger has faced it on the national level. And Christie’s challenge to his state’s public sector unions on pensions and benefits, deemed too modest, have sent him into a six-month scramble for a fix as he has tried to lay the groundwork for the most difficult campaign in American politics.

His national poll numbers have collapsed, from a high of 20 percent in the RealClearPolitics average just before the Bridgegate revelations in early 2014 to 4 percent today. Even the announcement date reflected Christie’s newfound troubles—pushed forward to allow him to fight to earn a spot on the first debate stage in Cleveland on Aug. 6. Even at home, his poll numbers put him among the most unpopular governors in the country.

Christie aides maintain that despite the low approval figures, his overall strategy hasn’t substantially changed. But it’s clear his ambition has. Gone are the long-laid plans to run a national campaign as a well-funded establishment powerhouse. His fundraising numbers, which will be announced next month, are expected to pale in comparison to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ted Cruz, let alone former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Some of the mega-donors who pushed him to enter the 2012 race against Mitt Romney have moved on, while others have opened their checkbooks only for cautious sums.

What Christie has left are his glory days: the personal narrative of growing up in a blue-collar family to prosecuting terror cases that will serve at the core of his speech. More important, will be recapturing the spirit of the long days of 2011, when the relative-unknown Governor became a YouTube and cable news staple in weekly clashes with critics over his pension reform plan. The give-and-take, in which Christie would argue that the state would go broke unless the retirement programs were restructured, defined Christie’s tenure in Trenton and, he hopes, one day the White House.

It’s an all-in bet that Christie’s dynamism on the stump and raw political talents can overcome more than a year of drama-filled headlines. That New Hampshire, the state with a penchant for embracing candidates’ “straight talk,” could vault Christie back into the top-tier. That the rest of the field, filled with candidates calibrating their messages to appeal to one group or another, will wear on voters seeking a leader.

“Voters are starved for authenticity, which is why Governor Christie has been successful in winning in a blue state,” Christie’s chief strategist, Mike DuHaime, told TIME last week. “Voters are looking for leaders who treat them like adults and tell them the truth. They are rejecting politicians who tell everyone what they want to hear and speak only in cautious focus-grouped terms.”

In four policy rollouts in recent months, Christie has deployed his “tell it like it is” message to calling for privatizing college loans and raising the retirement age. “They call it the third rail of American politics,” he said recently in New Hampshire. “They say, ‘don’t touch it.’ So we’re not going to touch it. We’re going to hug it.”

It’s signature Christie, and more such proposals are planned in the coming months.

Already Christie has held eight town halls in New Hampshire this year, and he will hold three more this week, beginning seven hours after his announcement address.

Christie’s speech Tuesday in the high school gymnasium, is staged to mimic the feel of the more than 135 town hall events he conducted in New Jersey, spotlighting the centrality of that storyline to his campaign. His pre-announcement video provides the origin story for those moments, a staple of his stump speech designed to make New Jersey brash palatable to the rest of America.

“I get accused a lot of times of being too blunt and too direct and saying what’s on my mind just a little bit too loudly,” Christie says at one of the Granite State town halls. “I have an Irish father and I had a Sicilian mother … My mom was the one who set the rules and set the tone. No suffering in silence, if you’ve got a problem, tell me.”

Christie would do well to heed his late mother. Sondra Christie’s advice given to the still-unformed future Governor could be what lifts him out of the current slump. If that tough talk cannot, Christie will be left with another truism from his idol, Springsteen: “Time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but boring stories of glory days.”

TIME Chris Christie

Chris Christie Teases Campaign Launch

He's seeking to show a softer side

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie released a video Sunday evening previewing his formal presidential announcement highlighting his commitment to “telling it like it is.”

The video seeks to cast Christie’s famously outspoken persona in a softer light, featuring the presidential candidate re-telling a familiar story from before his mother’s death. “There’s nothing left unsaid between us,” he says, quoting her at a New Hampshire town hall.

“You better tell them exactly what you’re thinking and exactly what you’re feeling,” Christie continues. “And when you ask about my moral compass, that’s it. That’s it.”

Christie, whose poll numbers have cratered at home and nationally following the politically motivated closures of lanes to the George Washington Bridge by former aides in 2013 and an ongoing fiscal crisis, is betting his political future on his unfiltered style and substance resonating with voters. His campaign’s strategy is New Hampshire-or-bust, seeking to follow the path of Sen. John McCain’s 2000 and 2008 bids.

But the “Straight Talk Express” is a lot more crowded this cycle, with more candidates seeking to appeal to voters by showing a willingness to stand up to the party base.

Leaving no doubt about the nature of Christie’s announcement Tuesday at his former high school in Livingston, New Jersey, the video is paid for by “Chris Christie for President, Inc.”

Read Next: The Straight Talk Express Gets a Few More Passengers

TIME 2016 Election

The Straight Talk Express Gets a Few More Passengers

The Straight Talk express bus during Senator John McCain's(R-AZ) visit to a polling booth during the "Straight Talk Express" campaign for the Republican nomination in Nashua, New Hampshire on January 8, 2007.
NBC NewsWire via Getty Images The Straight Talk express bus during Senator John McCain's(R-AZ) visit to a polling booth during the "Straight Talk Express" campaign for the Republican nomination in Nashua, New Hampshire on January 8, 2007.

Suddenly, truth-telling is in vogue

It takes a savvy politician to run for president by telling people what they don’t want to hear—or perhaps a crazy one. Yet here was Lindsey Graham, South Carolina’s senior senator, shuffling into the state capitol June 22 to advocate the removal of the Confederate flag. Graham’s nascent presidential campaign depends on winning the Palmetto State — where six in 10 voters oppose the relocation of the rebel emblem.

But it wasn’t the first time Graham, who supports comprehensive immigration reform and climate science, has put conscience ahead of his constituents. And he’s hardly the only candidate risking the repercussions of defying the party base as the race for the White House ramps up.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has stuck by his moderate positions on education and immigration. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will make controversial entitlement reforms a cornerstone of his comeback bid. Ohio Gov. John Kasich infuriated conservative activists by expanding Medicaid in Ohio. And long-shot candidate former New York Gov. George Pataki has made disagreeing with his party’s mainstream a point of pride.

The maverick style has gone mainstream. Fifteen years after John McCain tried to ride the Straight Talk Express to the GOP nomination, the truth-telling persona has become as much a fixture of presidential campaigning as the flag pin. And in the 2016 Republican primary, more candidates than ever before are betting that a base-bucking approach will pay off with voters sick of the quadrennial presidential pander.

“You have to understand,” Kasich explained to TIME in a recent interview, “the Republican Party is my vehicle, and not my master.”

All this is a stark change from the 2012 campaign, when the GOP field was desperate to indulge the activist base that seemed to hold the keys to the White House. The rush to the right often manifested in ways that were embarrassing or ugly. There was the debate where nearly the entire field pledged to veto a 10-to-1 deal of spending cuts for new tax revenue—a pact most sensible conservatives would snap up in a second. There was the collective unwillingness to call out conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s ad hominem attack against women’s rights’ activist Sandra Fluke. There was the forum in Florida where the candidates stood idly by as a gay soldier was booed on live television.

Yet four years later, the number of candidates eager to establish their independence exceeds the number who are purely focused on pleasing the base. “Voters are looking for leaders who treat them like adults and tell them the truth,” says Mike DuHaime, Christie’s chief strategist. “They are rejecting politicians who tell everyone what they want to hear and speak only in cautious focus-grouped terms.”

In some ways, the tell-it-like-it-is caucus is responding to Americans’ well-documented dissatisfaction with the nation’s institutions—and especially its elected officials.

“Most of these candidates understand that of the forces shaping the electorate, there is nothing more dominating than the utter collapse of trust between the American people and just about every institution you can think of,” explains Steve Schmidt, McCain’s former top strategist. “What they get is the macro-political climate in the country. They get the sour mood of the American people, the collapse of trust between most American institutions and the American people, and that they want a real leader.”

“Folks hate Washington, D.C.; its policies, its politics, its attitude,” adds New Hampshire-based GOP strategist Dave Carney. “We thirst for someone to treat us as adults, and be straight with us about the problems and challenges we face as a nation.”

But that’s not the only reason why Ted Cruz, whose Oval Office aspirations may hinge on winning the Iowa caucuses, called for an end to the ethanol subsidies that have long fattened local interests. Or why Bush told the Wall Street Journal last December that the next GOP nominee must be willing to “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.”

“Folks will tell you in politics, ‘don’t talk about that subject,’” Christie said in New Hampshire this month, in a reference to raising the retirement age. “They call it the third rail of American politics. They say, ‘don’t touch it.’ So we’re not going to touch it. We’re going to hug it.”

The maverick shtick is popular because it can be good politics. Each of these campaigns has mapped their paths to the White House through New Hampshire, where style has always been as prized as substance. They know that truth-telling can be a recipe for media attention, and that presenting one’s self as an agent of change can help establish a niche in a crowded field.

Their numbers are also growing as a side effect of new rules put in place after the 2012 race to shorten the primary calendar and limit the number of televised debates. The guidelines, imposed by the Republican National Committee to limit the damage inflicted on the eventual nominee, have had the unexpected effect of nationalizing the race. With more states voting early on, contests in places like Iowa and South Carolina become less vital to a candidate’s chances. That saps the power of hardcore activists and hands more influence to moderate voters in bigger, more diverse states. And with national polling being the standard to get on stage at the all-important televised debates, candidates have to define themselves more. “Loud doesn’t mean a lot,” Graham says.

The would-be mavericks are also responding to a well-documented hunger for a virtuous statesman, as embodied by the cinematic archetypes of Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith or Aaron Sorkin’s Jed Barlet. Or even the real-life McCain, whose bull-shooting sessions with the press on the back of his bus are the stuff of political legend.

Still, it’s a safe bet that political calculations will ultimately trump conscience. Graham’s good friend McCain pandered on the Confederate flag in his 2000 campaign and tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008 when he needed to galvanize the base. And candidates of all stripes can cast the same old red-meat as telling uncomfortable truths that somehow only discomfort the other party.

“It remains to be seen,” Schmidt says, “whether we’re going to have truth-telling candidates rather than candidates using ‘truth-telling’ as a prop.”

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