TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Has Used Birth Control—’And Not Just the Rhythm Method’

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and candidate in the Republicans' presidential candidates race, talks with a voter at The Puritan Backroom in Manchester, N.H. on Aug. 3, 2015.
CJ Gunther—EPA Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and candidate in the Republicans' presidential candidates race, talks with a voter at The Puritan Backroom in Manchester, N.H. on Aug. 3, 2015.

The governor doesn't think using birth control makes him "an awful Catholic"

Gov. Chris Christie announced he has used birth control at a town hall meeting Tuesday morning, and he made sure to leave little room for ambiguity.

“I’m a Catholic, but I’ve used birth control—and not just the rhythm method, ok?” the Republican presidential candidate admitted to a crowd at a Manchester, N.H. restaurant.

Christie made it clear that he has struggled with his faith’s doctrine on sex and family, which holds that contraceptives “work against the natural gift of fertility.”

“My church has a teaching against birth control,” said the governor. “Does that make me an awful Catholic, because I believe and practiced that function during part of my life? I don’t think so.”

Watch the full video below.

TIME Horse Racing

Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah Finishes First at the Haskell Invitational

American Pharoah Wins Haskell Invitational
Staton Rabin—AP Victor Espinoza aboard Triple Crown champion Amiercan Pharoah heads down the stretch in the lead of the 2015 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

The three-year-old horse is said to be retiring later this year

American Pharoah finished first at the Haskell Invitational Stakes in New Jersey on Sunday, two months after becoming only the twelfth Triple Crown winner in a century.

“This horse, he just keeps bringing it,” Bob Baffert, the horse’s trainer, told the Associated Press. “He’s just a great horse.”

American Pharoah finished the mile-and-an-eighth course in just under a minute and 48 seconds, pulling ahead of the horse Competitive Edge in the final stretch after maintaining a second-place stride for most of the race. The victory earned the horse’s team a purse of $1.75 million, bringing his career winnings to more than $5.5 million.

Nearly 61,000 spectators came to the Monmouth County race track to watch the celebrated colt race. Barring a moment when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was booed in the winners’ circle, the crowd, Baffert said, was electric.

“I couldn’t believe the crowd, how loud it was,” he said to the Associated Press, his voice cracking with emotion. “It was a great crowd. I love bringing my horses here. Thank you for being behind Pharoah the whole way.”

It is reported that the colt, who turned three in Februrary, will retire from competitive racing in October — notably younger than most of his peers, who sometimes continue to race into their teens.

TIME Campaign Finance

Super PACs’ Haul So Far Tops $266 Million

Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks to workers at Thumbtack on July 16, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks to workers at Thumbtack on July 16, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

That's 17 times as much as they did in 2012

Presidential super PACs operating expansive shadow campaigns — buying ads, hosting town hall meetings and hiring canvassers — have raised more than twice as much money as the candidates themselves, newly filed campaign finance documents show.

About three dozen such super PACs collectively raised more than $266 million from January through June while the campaigns of 2016 presidential hopefuls collectively raised just half that much — about $130 million — according to a Center for Public Integrity review.

The total raised by super PACs is about 17 times more than comparable groups raised during the same period four years ago, when the term “super PAC” had yet to make it into the dictionary.

Super PACs, made possible thanks to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, can accept unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals. They may use the funds to support or oppose candidates, but are prohibited from coordinating their spending with campaigns.

Leading in the money chase: Right to Rise USA, a group that supports former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, which raised more than $103 million.

Bush helped raise millions for the group, despite the anti-coordination rules. Bush attended numerous fundraising events for the super PAC, but got around the prohibition by making appearances prior to announcing his 2016 candidacy.

Two dozen donors each gave Right to Rise USA at least $1 million during the year’s first half, with about 90 percent of it coming before Bush officially launched his campaign in June. One of those million-dollar donors was NextEra Energy, a Florida-based Fortune 200 energy company.

A pair of famous Texas retirees also made handsome donations to Right to Rise USA: former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, who gave $125,000 and $95,000, respectively.

Millionaires club

While the pro-Bush super PAC dominated all others, a cluster of five super PACs supporting the presidential candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, raised about $38 million.

Two groups backing Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin raised more than $26 million.

And a super PAC backing Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., raised about $16 million.

In each case, the super PACs raised more than the candidates themselves — sometimes many times over. Bush’s official campaign, for instance, has collected just $11 million to date.

Never before have super PACs played such a prominent role in a presidential contest — especially so early in the process. Now, nearly every major candidate has a super PAC doppelganger.

Among the Republican contenders, only celebrity business tycoon Donald Trump, who so far has self-funded the bulk of his campaign, doesn’t yet have an allied super PAC capable of raising significant cash.

This represents a dramatic shift from four years ago.

At this stage of the 2012 presidential election, only President Barack Obama and eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney enjoyed the support of aligned super PACs. Super PACs supporting many 2012 GOP hopefuls did not form until the fall or winter of 2011.

“The first thing I’m going to do as a presidential candidate is see if there’s a super PAC out there to support me, or someone willing to form a super PAC to help me,” said John Grimaldi, a political operative who worked for a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC in 2012 but is not working for a campaign or super PAC this election cycle.

“A super PAC eliminates a major portion of your campaign expenditures as a candidate,” Grimaldi continued. “It makes it easier to run.”

Why? The answer, in part, is that deep-pocketed donors who are prohibited from donating large sums of money directly to the candidates themselves may give unlimited amounts to super PACs — as may corporations and labor unions.

No limits, no problem

Candidates may only accept donations of $2,700 per person, per election, and $5,000 per election from corporate or labor political action committees.

“We are not subject to contribution limits like the campaigns are, so that certainly helps build resources to get our message out,” said Jordan Russell, spokesman for the Opportunity and Freedom PAC, which is backing former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s White House run.

The Opportunity and Freedom PAC has already spent more than $2.3 million on advertisements touting Perry — more than twice as much as the Republican’s presidential campaign raised through the end of June.

This dynamic frustrates many of the presidential contenders, and some, including Cruz, are openly calling for contribution limits to candidates to be eliminated entirely.

“Our current campaign finance system is ridiculous,” Cruz told the Center for Public Integrity in a recent interview. “The way to do it is to let campaigns speak for themselves directly.”

Even grassroots favorites, such as Republican Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, have allied super PACs.

One super PAC working on Carson’s behalf raised $13.5 million last year and another $2.9 million during the first half of 2015, while Carson’s campaign, which was launched in May, has raised $10.6 million.

“I personally have not gone around chasing after billionaires and special interest groups,” Carson told the Center for Public Integrity. “We’re getting an enormous response from the grassroots. That’s the people that I want to be beholden to.”

Wealthy donors have certainly helped fuel the super PAC spree — and many of them are hedging their bets and supporting multiple White House contenders in a field that’s grown to 17 Republicans and five Democrats.

Hedging their bets

Rich donors flirting with multiple Republican candidates spread, in some cases, millions of dollars among super PACs backing different candidates. This continues a trend that first emerged after presidential candidates themselves released campaign disclosures earlier this month.

Take hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who laid down $11 million to a pro-Cruz super PAC called Keep the Promise I, making him practically the sole funder.

That’s a pretty big investment.

But surprisingly, Keep the Promise I steered $500,000 to a super PAC backing Cruz rival Carly Fiorina — presumably at Mercer’s direction, and possibly a sign that were Cruz to falter or withdraw, Mercer could direct the super PAC elsewhere.

On top of that, Mercer wrote a $250,000 check to Believe Again, a super PAC supporting Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Republican presidential bid.

Then there’s former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio, who was the biggest donor to the super PAC backing Fiorina, who gave nearly $1.6 million. He also gave $100,000 to the pro-Bush Right to Rise USA super PAC.

Meanwhile, Robert McNair, the billionaire owner of the NFL’s Houston Texans, donated $500,000 apiece to super PACs backing Republicans Bush, Cruz, Walker and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

An investment firm tied to Manoj Bhargava, the politically active founder of beverage company 5-hour Energy, similarly placed multiple six-figure bets on super PACs supporting three GOP presidential candidates, all governors.

The company, called ETC Capital LLC, gave $150,000 to America Leads, a super PAC backing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, $150,000 to the Unintimidated PAC, which supports Walker, and $100,000 to the pro-Jindal Believe Again super PAC.

Bhargava’s investment firm was among the top five donors last year to the Republican Governors Association, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the firm would back three current Republican governors seeking the White House, two of whom — Christie and Jindal — are past RGA chairs.

Even Marlene Ricketts, the matriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team and the mother of Walker’s campaign finance chairman, Todd Ricketts, spread her money around.

She donated $10,000 each to groups backing Bush, Christie, Cruz, Graham, Perry and Rubio.

But her largest donation — $4.9 million — went to Walker’s Unintimidated PAC, representing a quarter of the super PAC’s take.

Working closer with candidates

Bradley Crate, chief financial officer for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said that four years ago, super PAC leaders proceeded with a measure of caution, afraid of violating laws that restricted how they interfaced with political candidates.

Today, such fears have largely dissipated, with the ideologically gridlocked Federal Election Commission often unable to agree on how to interpret and regulate the most basic of election law matters.

This gives super PACs the opportunity to work more intimately with candidates. Some are even absorbing many of the responsibilities traditionally reserved for a candidate’s own campaign, said Crate, now president of Red Curve Solutions, a Massachusetts-based campaign finance consulting firm.

“That’s what I would do,” he said.

Alex Cohen and Chris Zubak-Skees contributed to this report.

This story is from The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C. To read more of their reporters’ work, go here or follow them on Twitter.

TIME Chris Christie

The Political Upside of Chris Christie’s Threats Against Colorado Pot Users

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.

The upside and downside of going after weed

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie threatened users of marijuana who have been buying the drug legally under state law on Tuesday. “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” he said, according to Bloomberg. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”

The blunt language ran against the tide of national public opinion, distinguished him from most of his colleagues in the Republican field, and could present problems in key states like Colorado and New Hampshire, where majorities support marijuana legalization. But pollsters say the straight talk might also offer him political upside, by appealing to conservative voters and separating him from his rivals.

An April Pew poll found that 53% of the country now supports marijuana legalization, including 39% of Republicans. On the question of whether the federal government should override state law to bust pot users, 59% of Americans, including 54% of self-identified Republicans, oppose the federal enforcement in states like Colorado.

In Colorado, a crucial 2016 swing state, the numbers are slightly more favorable for legal pot. According to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll, 62% of Colorado voters support recreational marijuana legalization. A poll done for the Denver Post shows how the supporters break down by political party: 66% of Democrats and 62% of Independents said they would vote to legalize marijuana in the state if the ballot came up again, while only 26% of Republicans said they would.

Christie’s tough stance could cut both ways in the primary and general campaign. “You can safely say in Colorado the decision to legalize marijuana is popular,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “And when you walk in with a broad stroke saying I’m going to take this away, it could negatively affect Chris Christie.”

But Malloy said there’s a potential benefit to Christie’s strong stance, as well. Of the 16 Republican candidates, few others openly share Christie’s support of federal enforcement, though Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and South Caolina Sen. Lindsay Graham have tiptoed around it. Most candidates, from Florida Governor Jeb Bush to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, instead say they would leave the question of routine marijuana enforcement up to the states. Their views are summed-up by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who said, “I think Colorado voters made a choice. I don’t support their choice, but I do support their right to make that choice.”

So Malloy thinks that even if many voters disagree with Christie, his resolute stance on the issue makes him stand out from the rest of the field. “It’s certainly a bold, against the tide claim for Chris Christie,” Malloy said. “When you’re one of 16 and your star is not rising as it was a few years ago, what appears as a principled move could work in your favor.”

Christie has always been opposed to marijuana legalization, both politically and personally: “Never have. It wasn’t my thing,” he said of using the drug on a recent campaign swing.

Andrew Smith, director of the Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire, agreed with Malloy. “What all these guys need to do is separate themselves from the field,” he said. “Part of the way you do that is to distinguish yourself from the other candidates.”

Plus, according to Smith, there’s less of a political downside to being anti-pot in New Hampshire than there is in Colorado. “It’s not a major issue here,” he said, although a recent UNH poll showed 60% of New Hampshire voters support legalization, and 72% support decriminalization. “The libertarian voters, the voters in the Republican Party who are most likely to be proponents of marijuana legalization, first off they’re going to be less likely to vote… and if they are Republicans, they’re probably going to be more the libertarian Rand Paul supporters… There are enough older more conservative republicans, culturally conservative, that would support [Christie] on that.”

TIME 2016 Election

The New Republican Power Players in 2016: Wives (And One Husband)

Chris Christie
Mary Schwalm—AP Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his wife wife Mary Pat walk in the Fourth of July parade in Wolfeboro, N.H.

Accomplished partners are taking leading roles inside White House campaigns

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was making his way slowly down Main Street in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, held up by yet another fan who wanted a selfie along the parade’s route. The process was delaying the day in July, throwing the whole campaign off-schedule and making Christie’s aides nervous about making it to the next stop. Enter Mary Pat Christie, campaign’s all-purpose fixer. Her task for the day: be the antidote to any long-winded well-wisher or fat-fingered iPhone user.

“Hi, I’m Mary Pat,” she said with an outstretched hand, breaking into the conversation. She subtly grabbed her husband’s elbow and said quietly, “We’ve got to go.” She directed him to the next group of supporters in a way that didn’t offend the voter and got the job done.

Mary Pat Christie is just one of the examples of a politically savvy, deeply involved spouses who are having an impact on the Republicans’ crowded chase of the presidential nomination. Some more subtly than others, these women—and one man—are weighing in on policy, schedules, staff, tactics and strategies. Among them are two Wall Street executives (Mary Pat Christie and Heidi Cruz) who traded their jobs for campaign roles, two nurses (Anita Perry and Karen Santorum), an almost-PhD (Supriya Jindal) and a political consultant (Kelley Paul) who once counted a rival to her husband (Ted Cruz) as a client. Another (Frank Fiorina) left his job as a vice president at AT&T to support his wife’s business career and is a constant figure in her endeavors.

Gone are the days when voters considered it out of bounds when a wife troubled herself with politics or policy. In 1992, Bill and Hillary Clinton were on defense over the idea that she would have a policy role at the White House and a strategic role in the campaign. Now similar two-for-one offerings on the campaign trail are as common as not.

“We’re good partners,” Mary Pat Christie explained to TIME days later. “We have been our whole life. We’ve been married almost 30 years. No one knows each other better than we do.” It’s why, from time to time, she settles into the chair next to her husband when his advisers are ready to start a political briefing. And when he is looking to rake in Wall Street cash, Mary Pat Christie’s Rolodex is invaluable.

Even as Christie was declaring his intentions to run for President, he made a nod that Mary Pat was part of the deal. “Everyone thinks I’m the politician in the family. We did a coin flip when we got married. I called tails. Tails never fails so I’m the guy who ran,” Christie said. “But the politician just as good as me in the family is the woman that I met all those years ago at the University of Delaware.”

For sure, there are less politically involved spouses in the mix, too. Columba Bush, the wife of Jeb, clings to her privacy and insists she never talks policy with her husband. Marco Rubio’s wife, Jeanette, remains focused on raising four children at home in West Miami. Karen Santorum is a full-time caregiver to a daughter who requires near-constant medical attention because of a genetic disorder. “While she may be a great asset on a campaign, she is an indispensable asset at home,” former Sen. Rick Santorum says.

But this is hardly the field of quiet would-be First Ladies standing silently at heir husbands’ sides. If their lives are going to be upended for the unmatched challenge of running for the White House, they’re going to pitch in. Mary Pat left her job as a managing director and bond trader at Angelo Gordon to focus on the campaign. Heidi Cruz is on leave from her job as a managing director at financial giant Goldman Sachs, and has set up shop inside her husband’s campaign. (Heidi Cruz met Ted while working on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000.)

Similarly, Anita Perry and Janet Huckabee are among the closest political advisers to their spouses and have hired their own chiefs of staff to run their political operations at campaign headquarters. Kelley Paul often schedules campaign events of her own as her husband is tied up with his day job in the Senate. Paul’s advisers describe Kelley Paul, herself a successful political consultant and author, as their best advocate among female voters.

Tonette Walker is described as one of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s biggest boosters—and challengers when she disagrees with him, as she did when he came out forcefully against the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. “I was torn,” she said in one interview, noting she is very close to a female cousin and her wife. Conservatives immediately criticized the Governor over his wife’s positions. “Someone with a leftist wife is going to have a hard time,” Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, tells TIME.

It’s a tough balancing act for these spouses, especially those putting their careers on hold to pitch in with their partners. “I’ll do as much as I can, as long as I can keep that balance with my children at home and life on the road,” said Mary Pat Christie, who chatted with former First Lady Barbara Bush about what to expect during a challenging campaign. It left her unfazed.

That doesn’t mean Mary Pat Christie is giving her husband a pass on what she sees as common courtesies. For example, she is dogging the Governor to remember names of aides and volunteers. “This work is not easy and it’s so important to show your appreciation for people,” Mary Pat Christie told her husband after he fumbled aides’ names. The next time, he remembered.

With reporting by Zeke Miller in Wolfeboro, N.H.

TIME Donald Trump

Republicans Plot New Tactics to Take On Donald Trump

The GOP struggles to deal with a problem of its own creation.

The trouble started more than a week ago. Chris Christie was three days into his presidential campaign on July 2, yet he kept getting thrown off message with questions about Donald Trump. The New Jersey Governor, known for his attitude and bombast, flashed a frustrated glare at reporters. “I’ve said this now about eight or nine times. I’ll say the same thing again,” he said on the street in downtown Nashua between campaign stops. “The comments were inappropriate.” That much was clear.

What remained less so for Christie and the rest of the GOP field was whether the questions about the reality television star-turned-presidential candidate would ever stop. In the days that followed, something like the opposite has happened. Trump has risen from petty distraction to campaign sensation, rising near the top of national and early-state polling on the backs of his universal name recognition, a platform appealing to the GOP fringes, and a steady stream of inflammatory comments.

This has led campaigns and Republican leaders to rethink their response to Trump. Initial efforts to ignore him have failed, daily denunciations of him have only increased his visibility, putting him into first place in the GOP field according to one online-only poll sponsored by YouGov and The Economist. A candidate that many Republicans long courted for his megaphone and populist following now threatens to tar the larger party with comments about rapists and criminals flooding over the southern border.

“The first rule of politics when you’re in a hole is to stop digging,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said at the Atlantic Council on Wednesday. “Someone needs to take the shovel out of Donald Trump’s hands.”

And many of Trump’s rivals are gearing up to do just that.

One strategy that is growing in favor is to treat him like any other candidate, and using his well-documented record of inflammatory, contradictory, and unorthodox statements against him. Trump has said he loves Hillary Clinton, was pro-choice and pro-same-sex marriage—just a few examples of comments that his supporters would find objectionable. In 1999, Trump proposed a one-time “net worth” tax on the wealthy to wipe out the national debt.

Other candidates are taking on Trump head-on, hoping for a slice of the media fracas. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry released a video this week making his opposition to Trump personal. “Hey Donald, I saw your tweet the other day, but I think you might need to borrow my glasses to get a good look at the steps I took to secure the border while I was governor of Texas,” Perry said.

“Your comments about Mexicans are offensive and they don’t reflect the values of the Republican Party,” he added.

An option that is off the table is trying to keep Trump off the debate stage; he is all but certain to qualify if he turns in his financial disclosure on time. The GOP’s governing Republican National Committee voted in May on a resolution in favor of ensuring neutrality in the primary process, and the Party and television networks would find themselves afoul of campaign finance rules if they tried to keep a qualified candidate off stage.

And while there is a risk that he will overshadow or diminish the rest of the field, it might not be the worst thing for the other candidates. “We see beating up on Trump on the debate stage as an opportunity,” said an aide to one candidate, who like most of the GOP field, complains that Trump is only a factor because of the press. “It’s a media-generated story, since they’re giving him this platform and going around asking everyone about it everyday.”

Others worry that Trump’s presence on stage will make the entire field appear smaller by association. GOP poobahs are encouraging candidates to get in Trump’s face, no matter the cost.

“When Donald trump speaks about Hispanics, if I’m the smart Republican that stage, I’m going to rally and defend Hispanics and be their voice and become their champion,” says Ari Fleischer, the former Bush White House Press Secretary who co-authored the party’s 2012 autopsy calling for more outreach to Latino voters.

“My advice to Republican candidates is to say the truth: “Trump is not representative of the Republican Party. He doesn’t reflect our values and isn’t focused on the best interests of the country or the party.” And then they’ll have no reasons to answer Trump questions again,” said Tony Fratto, the managing partner at GOP firm Hamilton Place Strategies and a former Deputy White House Press Secretary in the Bush 43 administration.

On Saturday, Trump will travel to Arizona, a hotbed for the nativist immigration sentiment that Trump has sought to capture, to further speak about the southern border. On Thursday, a spokesperson said that the venue had been moved to the Phoenix Convention Center in anticipation of a crowd of “thousands.”

There he will continue to try to square his current positions with some of his past statements. Ironically after the 2012 election, Trump said that Romney had chased Latino voters away by with a “crazy policy of self-deportation, which was maniacal,” and suggesting that he backed a path to legal status for those in the U.S. illegally.

Now Trump is occupying headlines by defending saying that many immigrants from Mexico were “rapists,” and citing contrived statistics about the number of people in the U.S. without legal status. He has proclaimed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio “extremely weak” on immigration and suggested that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was compromised on the issue because his wife is Mexican-American.

“Do I regret it? No, I don’t regret it,” Trump told CNN of criticizing Columba Bush. Jeb Bush later called Trump’s claims “ludicrous.”

Trump now threatens to upend a years long and multi-million dollar effort by the Republican Party to make inroads with Hispanic voters, an effort RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has called essential to the party’s survival as a long-term political force. On Wednesday, Priebus phoned Trump to nudge him to tone down his rhetoric, focusing on the party’s efforts to win over Latinos, but the message fell largely on deaf ears, with Trump proclaiming that the chairman called to “congratulate” him on his success in the polls.

In many ways, Trump is a problem of the GOP’s own creation. A generation of party leaders and candidates has overlooked the bluster as they sought out his entertainment, endorsement, and checkbook. “Many of us have seen Trump for what he is for a long time, and have been concerned with the willingness of Republican leaders to tolerate him for really convenient, myopic reasons,” says Fratto.

Trump’s public prescriptions for the border, international trade, and foreign policy, if not his actions, have found a following in the overly-nationalistic and protectionist wings of the Republican Party that were once captivated by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the tea party, and marshaled by the GOP to retake the House in 2010. His rise has cut into the polling support for Sen. Ted Cruz, which explains why he is alone among Republicans in defending Trump.

For years, Trump has been a staple on the GOP’s rubber chicken dinner circuit, appearing at state conventions and party fundraisers. They tolerated his endless “birther” critiques of Obama, because his celebrity and entertainment value filled seats. As he worked to secure his nomination in 2012, Mitt Romney embraced Trump in an press conference in a ballroom at the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Las Vegas.

“There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life, and this is one of them,” Romney said after Trump’s introduction. After he finished lavishing praise on Trump, the pair shared an awkward handshake, in which Romney declined to look toward the assembled photographers.

Months later, Trump hosted a fundraising reception for Romney at the same hotel, and the GOP nominee’s campaign ran a “Dine with The Donald” fundraising contest, in which the winner would tour the Celebrity Apprentice boardroom, stay at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York, and sit for a meal with Romney and Trump.

After the last three weeks, the 2016 Republican nominee for president, assuming Trump does not win, is unlikely to do the same.

Read next: 18 Republicans Donald Trump Has Insulted

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TIME Chris Christie

Christie Won’t Pledge to Undo Iran Deal

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.

Even though he doesn't like it.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Saturday that while he is deeply troubled by the emerging Iranian nuclear agreement, he would not pledge to undo it should he take office.

Speaking to Republicans on July 4th in this lakeside vacation town, Christie sought to differentiate himself from the other 15 GOP candidates for president, casting himself as a leader who would carefully consider all options.

“I’m not one of those guys who’s going to say to you, ‘on Day One I will abrogate the agreement,'” Christie said, noting that the American president could not just act alone when China, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom are also parties to the deal, should one emerge. “On Day One, I will look into it and try to decide, depending upon where we are at that moment.”

As Christie was speaking, American and international negotiators were continuing talks in Vienna to complete the deal before this week’s deadline. Christie said he would have long since walked away from the table, arguing that Iran cannot be trusted to implement the agreement.

“If I was negotiating this deal right now, I would be gone,” he said. “I would be away from the table. I would be going back to our allies and saying these are not reliable negotiators on the other side—not the people we can count on to keep their word. They haven’t shown us that.”

But Christie added he could not commit to revoke an agreement without prior investigation.

“If I’m saddled with the deal as president, then on the first day I’ll be saying to my national security advisor, to my Secretary of State and to my head of national intelligence: give me all the information I need to let me know all the options I have to try to put this genie back in the bottle, and then we’ll make a decision,” he added.

The comments follow a pattern for Christie, who has tried to draw subtle differences between himself and the rest of the GOP field on a range of policy proposals. Christie told a crowd of more than 100 at the breakfast event to “be careful” of candidates who make promises about what they’ll do on “Day One.”

“I have grave, grave doubts that this is an agreement I will be willing to stand behind, but I also don’t want to be the kind of president who tells all of you something in a campaign and that either doesn’t do it, hoping you forget that I told you I would actually do it on the first day,” he said. “Or, who does it only because I promised it, even if at that moment it’s not what’s in the best interests of America.”

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.”

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