Christie Vies to Seize Unity-Candidate Mantle

Suggests he gets the frustration dividing the GOP and can bring warring sides together

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie claimed Monday to be the candidate best positioned to bridge the rift between the GOP Establishment and conservative wings of the GOP, saying he is “ready to unite our party.”

“There’s been a lot of wild talk lately about third-party runs, or a brokered convention, or big GOP donors switching to Democrats if they don’t like our nominee,”  Christie said in a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire.

He warned, however, that “any significant division within the Republican Party leads to the same awful result — Hillary Clinton taking the oath of office in January 2017.”

Christie, generally thought of as an Establishment candidate, maintained he is best suited to address the conservative concerns that have led to the significant success of so-called outsider candidates.

“As voters become more frustrated, angry voices sound more reasonable. It’s not enough to express anger — we must elect someone who knows how we get things done,” he said.

The governor acknowledged differences in opinion among Republicans in areas of immigration, trade, and national security, but he claimed that despite those differences, “there is no reason for a split among Republicans over these topics.”

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“Bringing our party together is the first task of the next Republican leader,” said Christie. “Without that unity we cannot win. And that unity is not possible without respect for the views, the emotions, the principles and the anger and disappointment of all the members of our party.”

Christie acknowledged widespread conservative fear and anger over the direction the country has taken under President Obama, frustration that has allowed the tough-talking populist Donald Trump to dominate the GOP presidential primary field.

“This president, the career politicians in Congress, the media, the D.C. insiders, all want to dismiss your anger as irrational,” Christie told the assembled crowd at St. Anselm College. “They label you crazy because their livelihoods depend upon calling you names and dismissing your worries.”

These comments followed remarks that Christie made Sunday, in which the GOP presidential hopeful criticized Obama for being “absolutely marinated in political correctness.”

Christie’s shift to more right-wing rhetoric will likely continue as the candidate seeks to expand on recent poll gains in New Hampshire and steal away supporters from outsider favorites Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

In a not-so-subtle swipe at Trump, Christie said, “These times and these challenges demand a grown-up. They demand someone who has been fighting today’s battles in the arena, not sidelined for years. … Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief.”

Christie also appeared to take a shot at Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, saying, “Bluster is not the leadership we crave. Talking a big game and either not showing up or not knowing how, isn’t what we desperately need today.”

While Christie — a sitting governor and former U.S. attorney — certainly knows how to get things done, it remains to be seen whether he can truly bridge the divide between the GOP Establishment and the party’s more conservative, populist base.

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