SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Potential Republican presidential contender Chris Christie says he intends to compete actively in South Carolina if he chooses to run, despite some perceptions that his brash style and record on issues like gun control won't appeal to voters in the South's first 2016 primary.
"I think South Carolina is the kind of place where they appreciate folks who say things directly," the New Jersey governor told reporters after greeting diners at Wade's restaurant.
Christie held a town hall event in Greenville and toured the city's downtown business district, where he bumped into one former New Jersey resident after the next. During the town hall at Tommy's Country Ham House, Christie made clear he doesn't mind ruffling feathers.
"Here's one thing I can guarantee you," he said. "If I decide to run for president and if I ever won, the one thing you would not have to worry about is whether some china would be broken in the process, OK?"
He told patrons the elimination of the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records will make the U.S. more vulnerable. Under a new law, the NSA will lose the power to collect and store phone records in bulk. The government still can obtain data connected to specific numbers from phone companies through court orders.
"Exactly what we want to count on," Christie said sarcastically. "We want to put our national security in the hands of the phone companies."
He added: "Come on. This could only be made up in Washington, D.C. Only in Washington, D.C., could they try to sell this and expect the American people are going to believe it."
In Spartanburg, Christie defended his record on firearms, blaming New Jersey's stringent gun laws on a Democratic state Legislature.
Christie ran his early campaigns for public office defending New Jersey's ban on assault-style weapons and received a "C'' grade from the National Rifle Association in 2013.
But he recently vetoed a bill that would have further limited the size of magazine clips, and he's pardoned out-of-state visitors charged with breaking laws about carrying concealed guns.
Christie said he thinks voters who look at his record will "come away feeling fairly secure about the fact that I have a good, smart, balanced approach to this."
The governor says he plans to decide this month whether to run for the GOP nomination. The visit was Christie's first in nearly five months to South Carolina.