PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie returned to the presidential campaign Sunday, touting his handling of the massive snow storm that socked his state over the weekend.
"There are some candidates in this race who try to tell you it doesn't matter what you've done before. It does matter," said Christie at a town hall in Portsmouth.
He didn't name rivals Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz, both freshmen senators, but contrasted his executive experience with their legislative backgrounds. Christie has often said that Senate service does not prepare anyone for the White House.
"New Jersey has someone in charge who knew what he was doing," Christie said. "The reason I knew what I was doing is because I've done it a lot of times before."
The weekend blizzard was Christie's 17th snow emergency in six years.
"It's not that I was innately born with the ability to deal with snow emergencies or hurricanes," Christie said. "I've done it. You learn."
The 44-year-old Rubio has campaigned on the nation's need for a "new generation of leadership." On Saturday, he joked that the weekend snowstorm that closed down Washington and much of the East Coast would keep federal agencies from imposing new regulations and keep President Barack Obama from using his veto pen.
On CNN's "State of the Union," Christie said the remark showed "a real immaturity from Sen. Rubio to be joking as families were freezing in the cold, losing power and some of them losing their loved ones."
At least 18 deaths were blamed on the storm, resulting from car crashes, shoveling snow and hypothermia.
"That's a difference between a United States senator who has never been responsible for anything and a governor who is responsible for everything that goes on in your state," said Christie.
The Rubio campaign fired back against Christie.
"Chris Christie wasn't even going to return to New Jersey until he was shamed into it," said Rubio spokesman Alex Conant in an email to The Associated Press. "Christie should worry less about Marco's jokes and more about his own liberal record on gun control, judges and abortion."
The town hall in Portsmouth was one of three Christie campaign stops in New Hampshire. Christie also met voters in Hampton and attended an AFC Championship game watch party with New England Patriots fans in Hampton Falls.
Ellen Christo, who hosted the watch party, said she's backing Christie and believes New Hampshire voters will support him because he's "plain-spoken" and can work with Democrats to "get things done."
Christie has focused much of his campaign's resources on New Hampshire. He began rising in the polls late last year, and the state's Feb. 9 primary could make or break his presidential bid.