LONDONDERRY, N.H. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chis Christie is determined to prove he's not the presidential campaign afterthought that some perceive.
In meet-and-greets, a major policy speech and more this week in New Hampshire, the likely Republican presidential contender is working to demonstrate what his supporters have been saying: He can communicate with everyday voters in ways that others can't.
Whether that's true or not, Christie was in his element Wednesday as he tried to replicate the formula that made him famous in New Jersey. His first in a series of New Hampshire town halls looked much like the 134 he's held at home as governor, complete with a theater-in-the-round setup and the governor answering from a mostly friendly, standing-room-only crowd.
Answering nearly 20 questions over 90 minutes, Christie addressed the normalization of relations with Cuba (he's against it), the emerging nuclear pact with Iran (ditto), the fight against the Islamic State group (he's open to putting U.S. soldiers "into the fight"), and more.
He also talked expansively about his background, recounting his last conversation with his dying mother and commiserating over soaring tuition costs, as the father of two in college.
But not everything was like the New Jersey town halls, where Christie sometimes seems to be spoiling for an argument.
"I've been on my darn best behavior," he joked.
"It was awesome," declared Donna Foskitt, 55, whose family owns a small business and said the event convinced her Christie would be a good president.
"I am so tired of — lack of a better word — the wimpy administration and the way the country's run," she said. "I'm really looking for someone with strength, courage, to stand up and make us great again, and I think he's got the personality and everything to go with it."
But the realities of Christie's predicament remain, such as fallout from lane closures at the George Washington Bridge that appeared to have been orchestrated by his former aides and appointees to punish a Democratic mayor who didn't endorse him for re-election.
The issue followed him to the town hall and to Chez Vachon, a Manchester diner where photos of past presidential candidates hang on the walls.
During a breakfast meet-and-greet Wednesday morning, Christie came across a group of regulars, who ribbed him with a reference to the mob show "The Sopranos."
After quizzing Christie about his stance on guns, Buck Mercier, 64, a self-described progressive Democrat, brought up the bridge.
When he heard the governor was coming, he joked, "I went down and personally made sure that the bridges were going to stay open." The crowd laughed.
"You know I heard there are a lot of wise guys at this diner this morning," Christie responded without a hint of anger. "Which direction is the bridge? I'll go make sure that it's open."
"I don't think anybody likes anything like that to happen on your watch," he said in an interview with NBC.
Christie reiterated that he hasn't yet decided whether to run, but offered some thoughts on the burgeoning campaign.
"I think a governor or a former governor is going to be nominated" by the Republican Party, he told interviewer Matt Lauer. But when asked if he saw former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as his toughest potential competition, Christie replied, "It would seem to be that that train has slowed down."
Christie also said, without naming names, that "I don't think a one-term senator should be president of the United States."
Although he left many positive impressions, the governor has more work to do with voters in New Hampshire.
"Is that it?" asked David Peck, 58, who lives in Dover, after Christie delivered brief remarks at a happy hour meet-and-greet at Stone Church Tavern in Newmarket on Tuesday. "He just kind of whooshed in, said a few words and is whooshing out."
Moments later Christie stopped by Peck's table to introduce himself and shake his hand.
When asked whether that had made a difference, Peck said, "Eh."
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