New Jersey Gov. Christie struck a defiant tone at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, taking swings at the media and his leading presidential rivals as he fought off the notion that his likely presidential campaign is moribund.
In a 20-minute interview on stage with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, Christie cast himself as the victim of media attacks and a fighter for the middle class, while saying he’s unconcerned by his declining poll numbers in the crowded Republican field.
“When you do things like I’ve done in New Jersey, that take on a lot of these special interests that they support, they just want to kill you,” Christie said, of the New York Times. “And that’s what they try to do me every day. And here’s the bad news for them. Here I am and I’m still standing.”
Asked about his falling national poll numbers, Christie said they are irrelevant 20 months before Election Day. “I’ll take my chances on me. I’ve done pretty well so far,” he said.
The outspoken governor criticized former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s assertion that immigrants could help repopulate Detroit. “That’s misdirecting the priorities,” he said, saying the priority should be on helping those who live there.
“If the elites in Washington who make backroom deals decide who the next president is going to be, then he’s definitely going to be the frontrunner,” Christie said of Bush. Once the favorite of the establishment donor class, Christie now finds himself edged out by Bush for his once stalwart backers.
Christie also took a veiled shot at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who sought to downplay his pro-life positions during his 2014 re-election bid. “I’m pro-life,” he said, drawing applause for saying he vetoed funding for planned parenthood five times for ideological reasons. “I ran as a pro-life candidate in 2009 unapologetically.”
Christie’s frequent criticism of the media drew steady applause from the audience of conservative activists, a traditionally tough crowd for him.
“The focus unfortunately with a lot of people in politics right now is what they say on the editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post,” he said. “What we should be concerned about is what I heard when I traveled to 37 states last year: they want opportunities for great careers for themselves and their children, and we’re not talking about that.”
“I went to my parish priest and said I’m giving up the New York Times for Lent,” Christie added when Ingraham asked what he’d given up. “Bad news: he said you have to give up something you’ll actually miss.”