5 takeaways from Chris Christie's Mexico trip

AP News
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Posted: Sep 06, 2014 12:04 PM
5 takeaways from Chris Christie's Mexico trip

MEXICO CITY (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's trade mission to Mexico was promoted as a chance to foster business ties between that country and his state.

The just-concluded trip also gave the potential 2016 GOP presidential contender an opportunity to bolster his foreign policy credentials.

What was learned from his visit:

1. He won't talk about immigration.

Immigration is undoubtedly the most pressing issue between Mexico and the United States, but Christie showed no interest in weighing in.

"I know you guys are begging to have me focus on immigration. And let me put you to rest: I'm not going to," he told reporters Thursday. He said he would begin to sketch out his position only when, and if, he got into the White House race.

Nonetheless, the issue trailed him wherever he went, including to the city of Puebla, where a Spanish-language reporter asked Christie what should be done about the flow of Central American children across the border. Christie repeated his stance that Americans are "a compassionate people" who want to protect the children, but also live in a land of laws.

Despite the silence, Christie played plenty to the immigrants back home, working to build his appeal with Latino voters. An estimated 40 percent of New Jersey's Mexican-Americans have roots in Puebla.

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2. He's got stamina.

Christie's schedule condensed 22 meetings and events crunched into three days, according to an aide. That included meetings with five Cabinet members, President Enrique Pena Nieto and trip out of town.

He stopped at a taco joint and toured the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most revered Roman Catholic shrines in the Americas.

Christie bragged about the pace. "I have to tell you that I've felt really good during the last three days and probably better than most of my younger staff," he said, glancing over at some of their tired faces.

Christie explained that he's not a fan of downtime when he leaves the state. "I like to do as much of it as I possibly can in as short a period as I can and then get back home, not just to do my job but to see my family," he said.

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3. He knows how to dial it down.

The brash governor struck a more humble tone than usual, delivering data-heavy speeches and repeatedly stressing that he was there to listen and learn from those he met.

Christie said he routinely tailored his tone to his surroundings.

"You're getting to know people, so you don't want to go too overboard, right?"

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4. He's still figuring out how to position himself.

If those back home wanted to learn more about Christie's foreign policy views, they didn't learn much from this trip. Christie kept his focus on North America.

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5. The Hillary factor.

The prospect of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democrats' presidential nominee has put significant pressure on the potential GOP field to study up on foreign policy so they're prepared to face the former secretary of state in debates.

Christie got an early taste of Clinton's power when news broke that she would be visiting Mexico and overlapping with his stay.

She came on behalf of the Clinton Foundation to meet with billionaire Carlos Slim, and told reporters her background gives her a "unique vantage point" for the White House should she run in 2016.