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 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.”

TIME 2016 Election

What 2016 Republicans Would Do Next on Obamacare

For Republican presidential candidates, a possible Supreme Court decision overturning some Obamacare subsidies is a tricky subject.

No one in the GOP field wants to be seen as supportive of the Affordable Care Act, which was viewed unfavorably by 69 percent of Republicans in a June poll. But if the court rules against the Obama Administration, subsidies that make insurance affordable for 6.4 million Americans would be in jeopardy.

Four candidates are governors of states that would be directly affected by a court ruling because they do not have their own insurance marketplace: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Another four are sitting U.S. senators who could be forced to vote on any legislative fixes: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. (Of those, only Paul’s state would not be directly affected, as Kentucky runs its own marketplace, called Kynect.)

The candidates who are not in office currently—former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and businessman Donald Trump—have more flexibility to respond.

Here’s what the candidates have said should happen if the court strikes down subsidies in 34 states that don’t run their own marketplaces, in order of how major their plan would be:

Mike Huckabee: Wait and see

He has not yet taken a position.

Rick Santorum: Wait and see

He has not yet taken a position.

John Kasich: Ohio should fix it

“I’ve got good people working on this. We’ve chatted about this,” he told NewsMax. “If the court makes a decision that these exchanges get shut down, then we’re gonna have to figure something out in Ohio.”

Scott Walker: Congress should fix it

“This is a problem created by this president and the previous Congress,” he told Bloomberg News. “It’s something that requires a solution at the federal level. States didn’t create this problem, the federal government did. And they should fix it.”

Chris Christie: Congress should fix it

“If Congress messed up the statute, the Congress and the President created the statute; they should fix it,” he said during a trip to New Hampshire. “If they’re saying it’s not what they intended, then go back and fix it.”

Carly Fiorina: Congress should fix it

“I know that we certainly cannot leave people hanging and I have confidence that they are working on a plan in Congress now,” she told reporters. “I’m not sure if it is the plan that I would put forward, but I’m confident that they’re working on a plan.”

Marco Rubio: Pass a short-term fix, then replace the law

“Credible conservative plans have already emerged from Senator Ben Sasse, Congressman Paul Ryan and others,” he wrote on Fox News. “The goal is to provide an off-ramp for our people to escape this law without losing their insurance.”

Lindsey Graham: Pass a short-term fix, then replace the law

“I don’t think we should terminate (the subsidies) until we have a plan,” he told Politico.

Rick Perry: Pass a short-term fix, then replace the law

“You don’t turn around a huge ship just overnight. It takes a transition period,” he told RealClearPolitics. “I think most Americans, whether they’re strict conservatives economically, would find that to be out of the realm of appropriate.”

Ted Cruz: Let states opt out of Obamacare

“In a perfect world, we would take that opportunity to repeal Obamacare. At a minimum, we should allow states to opt out,” he told Politico. He later said he would push for a six-month transition to a full-blown repeal.

Rand Paul: Pass a conservative replacement now

“I would like to legalize inexpensive insurance policies, give more choice, let people choose their doctor, expand health savings accounts, help people save for their insurance,” he told Politico.

Jeb Bush: Pass a conservative replacement now

“Give broad discretion to states to create exchanges that would look more like a Republican vision of how you expand access to health care insurance,” he told the Des Moines Register. “The president’s likely to veto that. You don’t know until you get it there, though.”

Bobby Jindal: Do nothing

“Congress might be tempted to pass language extending the subsidies to the federally-run exchange, allowing Obamacare to comply with the court ruling,” he wrote in National Review. “That’s a ‘solution’ in search of a problem.”

TIME mike huckabee

Huckabee Aims for Seniors with Social Security Pitch in Florida

GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee delivers a defense of Social Security benefits during Florida Gov. Rick Scott's Economic Growth Summit on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, at the Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Orlando Sentinel via Getty Images GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee delivers a defense of Social Security benefits during Florida Gov. Rick Scott's Economic Growth Summit on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, at the Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee delivered a strong defense of government safety net programs for seniors at a candidate forum in Florida Tuesday, aiming for retired voters in a state rich with them.

While former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have called for raising the retirement age and means-testing Social Security benefits, Huckabee called those proposals “absolutely ridiculous.”

“Unlike some in Washington who want to cut benefits for seniors, I will protect Social Security and Medicare. Period,” the former Fox News host said at the forum organized by sitting Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “These programs are not entitlements they are earned benefits. The government took that money from you involuntarily when you started working – with the promise that you’d get that money back when you retire. For the government to even think about breaking that promise is absolutely ridiculous.”

In April, Christie proposed a plan that would gradually raise the retirement age to 67 for Medicare and 69 for Social Security, while phasing out payments for those with retirement incomes over $200,000. In an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, Bush called for a raising the retirement age and said he was open to means-testing.

“We need to look over the horizon and begin to phase in, over an extended period of time, going from 65 to 68 or 70,” Bush said. “And that, by itself, will help sustain the retirement system for anybody under the age of 40.”

In his speech, Huckabee also called for the importation of cheap pharmaceuticals from overseas in an effort to bring down costs.

“For too long, Floridians have been paying far too much for prescription drugs,” Huckabee said. “Americans should have the freedom to purchase safe drugs from Canada. In fact, doing so would save taxpayers $19 billion over 10 years. Re-importation also would create competition here in the United States and lower the cost of drugs for all Americans. It just makes sense. It’s wrong that people in foreign countries free-ride off of Americans who pay so much for the same drugs, especially seniors.”

TIME Chris Christie

Chris Christie to Pull New Jersey Out of Common Core

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Julio Cortez—AP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The move could help Christie in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will announce Thursday he is pulling his state out of the Common Core education standards, bowing to pressure from teachers and parents, as well as conservative fears about government overreach.

Christie, who is expected to declare his candidacy for President in the coming months, began a review of the standards a year ago, just as the issue began bubbling up in town-hall meetings in New Jersey and on the campaign trail.

Developed as a bipartisan proposal by state governors and states’ chiefs of schools six years ago, Common Core has become increasingly toxic politically among conservatives. Several Republican governors who initially supported the Common Core have backed out in recent years, and others have worked hard to distance themselves from it.

Christie’s announcement comes the same day that a lawsuit regarding Common Core, initiated by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who once supported the standards, was heard in a Baton Rouge court. Jindal is suing the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly “coercing” states into adopting Common Core by tying $4.35 billion in federal funding from Race to the Top, and waivers from No Child Left Behind, to the adoption of high standards.

The Obama Administration has moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that states were never required to adopt Common Core in particular, but instead to adopt any “rigorous standards” of their choosing. Forty-six states signed onto Common Core after it was finalized in 2010.

“It’s now been five years since Common Core was adopted. And the truth is that it’s simply not working,” Christie will say in a speech at Burlington County College in New Jersey on Thursday afternoon. “It has brought only confusion and frustration to our parents. And has brought distance between our teachers and the communities where they work.”

The move sets up a contrast between himself and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who remains a supporter of the standards. While Bush has distanced himself rhetorically from the policy, choosing not to use the words Common and Core, his education foundation helped fund and advocated for their implementation nationwide. Ohio Governor John Kasich, a likely GOP contender, has also stood up in defense of Common Core, condemning those in his party who have turned their back on them.

“Sometimes things get to be political and they get to be runaway Internet issues,” Kasich said in New Hampshire in March. “We don’t want the federal government driving K-12 education, and in my state — the state of Ohio — that is simply not the case.”

The reversal comes as Christie’s political fortunes are at a crossroads. His poll numbers have continued to wane from the lingering effects of the politically motivated closure of approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge and a weak fiscal picture in the Garden State. But Christie is pegging his hopes for success on New Hampshire, the libertarian-minded state where the Common Core standards are especially divisive.

Christie is tasking David Hespe, the commissioner of the state’s department of education, to lead a panel that will develop a new set of standards for the state.

“I have heard far too many people — teachers and parents from across the state — that the Common Core standards were not developed by New Jersey educators and parents,” Christie will say according to prepared remarks from his office. “As a result, the buy-in from both communities has not been what we need for maximum achievements. I agree. It is time to have standards that are even higher and come directly from our communities. I agree. It is time to have standards that are even higher and come directly from our communities.”

Common Core has also been a major bone of contention in Democratic states, where opposition to the standards is linked to objections to an uptick in standardized testing. Last year, Chicago schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett tempted federal sanctions by announcing that she did not intend to force her students to take the tests associated with Common Core. Tens of thousands of New York State students also opted out of the Common Core testing regime.

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