After officially entering the GOP presidential race in his home state of New Jersey on Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie kicked off his campaign with a five-day trip to New Hampshire.
At a town hall event in Sandown Tuesday night, Christie told voters, "I want to be the next president of the United States and I plan to win the next election." And he's relying, in large part, on his personality to help him do that.
Winning New Hampshire will be an uphill climb for Christie, but it's battle he plans to wage by getting up close and personal with voters. His chosen venue is his so called “Tell It Like It Is” town hall meeting, a staple of his earlier campaigns for governor.
The format: No teleprompters, no pre-picked questions and definitely no jackets. There is one rule, though – no shouting out questions, he says at Thursday’s town hall event in Rochester.
“I have developed a keen ability overtime at the dinner table to be able to ignore things that are being yelled at by people," he told the packed function room at The Pink Cadillac Diner. "So it’s not that I don’t want to hear you. It’s that I have been zoning out my children when they yell at me for a long time. So let’s raise our hands when we ask questions and I will be happy to answer them. I am going to take my coat off now because we are going to get to work now and we don’t work with our coats on."
Christie has had more than a dozen town hall meetings in New Hampshire since January, including three this week. He says he has no intention of slowing down.
Once a projected frontrunner, Christie is now trailing in the polls. And with 13 other Republican candidates in the running, he knows he has a lot of work to do to gain momentum.
His approach seemed to resonate with many who came to hear him this week, including Linda Fourner of Salem.
“He is not afraid to voice his opinion and I like that. I like that in a man, I like that in a president and I like that in a governor,” she said after the Sandown event.
Cathy Spreeman of Rochester, who met Christie at The Pink Cadillac Diner Thursday morning, said she finds him refreshing.
“Frankly I am tired of politicians who kind of pussyfoot around and want everybody to like them. We see that a lot, in New Hampshire, we see every politician there is who wants to be in higher office, so we are very accustomed to seeing that trend, but we are not accustomed to seeing someone who is outspoken.”
In New Hampshire this week, Christie appeared comfortable working a room. Whether at a town hall, a diner or a bar, Christie met with nearly every person inside – posing for selfies or hugging a stranger in return for a compliment on losing weight.
“You know he looks you in the eye and shakes your hand and talks to you, most of the candidates do, but his seems to be more engaging,” said Paul Clark of Nashua, who attended Tuesday’s town hall meeting in Sandown.
During these events, Christie’s wife Mary Pat is right by his side. He’s put his family at the center of his campaign; weaving his four kids into conversations or bringing up his deceased Sicilian mother, who he credits with raising him to speak his mind.
Randal Heller, a veteran from Barrington, pointed to Christie’s record of winning elections as a Republican in a Democratic state as a selling point.
“Governor Christie has proven the ability to work across party lines and to get things done, he has proven that in New Jersey and I think he can do a great job as doing that as a president as well,” he said in Rochester.
Voters will ultimately decide whether Christie’s personality is enough to win him the nomination. But he himself admits they have other options.
“I am going to tell you what I think. If you like it great, and if you don’t my goodness there are 13 other candidates to pick from, so you will find somebody who you agree with more than you agree with me. But you need to know what you are buying,” he told the packed town hall in Sandown.
Christie will be in New Hampshire through the holiday weekend, with plans to spend July Fourth in Wolfeboro.