Returning to One of His First N.H. Stops, Christie Brings Campaign Full Circle

Feb 7, 2016

Credit Casey McDermott, NHPR

Back in April, Shooter’s Pub in Exeter played host to one of Chris Christie’s first town halls in New Hampshire.

That was months before the New Jersey governor officially announced his bid for president, when he was still just introducing himself to the people of the Granite State.

“It was one of the most spirited crowds. Right? I was behind the bar. We had a lot of fun that day,” Christie said. “And it helped to begin to baptize me in what it was like to run for president of the United States here in New Hampshire."

So on Sunday afternoon, Christie returned to the same bar and bowling alley —  this time, with nearly 70 town halls under his belt and some added confidence after earning strong reviews for his debate performance the night before.

With two days to go before the primary, Christie is trying to close the deal with New Hampshire voters — and making a point to target one of his Republican opponents, Marco Rubio.

All week, in speeches to voters across the state, Christie has questioned Rubio’s readiness. On Saturday night, Christie went head-to-head with the senator, criticizing Rubio for falling back on scripted talking points and saying he hasn’t been tested enough to take on the presidency.

“Doesn’t matter that I like Marco Rubio and I think he’s a good guy. Doesn't matter,” Christie told the room. “He’s not ready.  And last night, when the heat went on, he proved he was not ready. Now, if I do that with him, when we agree on most things, imagine what would happen if he were on the stage against Hillary Clinton.”

Christie spoke for about 10 minutes, and he didn’t stick around to take any town hall-style questions from the audience – saying he didn’t want to delay anyone’s Super Bowl plans. But the governor did mingle with the crowd packed inside the pub, and he made a promise to return again.

"I’ll give you this – after I’m president of the United States, because I’m going to win, we’re going to come and we’re going to bowl right here at Shooters." 

While some people at Shooters said they were still making up their minds, Christie’s return to the pub might have helped him pick up at least one supporter.

Carol Johnson of South Hampton was undecided when she showed up to Shooters, and she didn't even realize a presidential candidate was going to stop by. But after hearing what Christie had to say?

“I love him. Honestly, I love him. I’m voting for him Tuesday,” Johnson said.

And did this help to sell her?

“It did, it did,” she said. “He’s so down to earth. I just like him a lot. I’ve always liked him, but I really like him now.”

Christie will keep up his push to sway more last-minute supporters like Johnson on Monday, with stops planned in Hudson, Hampstead and Manchester. 

Making his way through the sea of people inside the bar, he told one person, with a laugh: "You have to play the small pubs before you play the big stadiums."