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'It's Game Time' For Chris Christie In New Hampshire

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, addresses a town hall in Concord, N.H., on Monday.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, addresses a town hall in Concord, N.H., on Monday.

With just over a month until New Hampshire's presidential primary, the stakes are high for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. That state's primary may be his best shot at a path to the Republican nomination. Although he's been struggling with fundraising and polling, Christie's rivals are attacking him in the Granite State — a sign, the candidate says, that his campaign may be catching on.

This week on the campaign trail, Christie has spent several days crossing New Hampshire. His message to Republicans is simple: This has been an entertaining campaign, but now it's time to get serious.

"Showtime is over. It's game time," he said during a town hall meeting at a grade school in Concord on Monday evening. "Now it's time to pick a president of the United States."

Christie said the country needs a leader who can handle tough decisions. He said first-term senators like rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and businessmen like Donald Trump, aren't ready.

"We don't need a president who's gonna sit behind the desk on the first day, spin around in the chair and say, 'Gee whiz, isn't it amazing? I'm president!' " Christie said. "We need somebody who's gonna sit in that chair the first day and say, 'I recognize this.' "

Christie is campaigning hard in New Hampshire, hosting dozens of town halls, and talking up his record of working with a Democratic legislature and helping his state recover from Superstorm Sandy. It's a format where his bold personality shines; he cracks jokes, occasionally argues with questioners, and often spends more than two hours talking with voters.

In Concord, he had some advice for a fifth-grader about the importance of studying hard.

"I know it's hard for guys like you and I to believe — but we are not gonna get by in life just on our charm and good looks," Christie joked, cracking up the crowd. "So work hard."

In New Hampshire, Christie is closing in on Rubio and Cruz in the polls, but Trump solidly leads the pack.

At St. Anselm College in Manchester on Monday, Christie addressed the frustration that is driving many voters this year — and asked them to channel it into supporting a serious candidate.

"Let's take this righteous anger and frustration, and make it productive for our party and for our nation. I'm not afraid of these emotions — God's sakes, I'm from New Jersey, how could I be afraid of anger and frustration?" Christie said, drawing laughter from that audience, too.

But Christie's record as governor of New Jersey is a vulnerability. SuperPACs supporting Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have launched ads in New Hampshire that take aim at Christie. They highlight, among other things, New Jersey's budget deficit.

Christie says that's a good sign his rivals see him as a threat.

"I'm just better qualified; I'm better tested; I'm more experienced," he told reporters at a forum on drug addiction Tuesday in Hooksett. "I think the reason they're coming after me now is because I'm doing well and my message is connecting up here in New Hampshire. So it's good to be attacked. It means I'm in the game."

After a town hall luncheon with Christie hosted by the Manchester Rotary on Monday, Republican voter Paul Porter said he thinks the party should choose a nominee who knows how to govern.

"There's something wrong in this country when a totally inexperienced politician can lead the pack at this stage," Porter said.

Porter likes a lot of things Donald Trump is saying, but said he thinks Christie is more suited to being a leader.

"I think [Christie] is tough enough to deal with what's going on in the world, in a direct but politically astute manner. And I think that really is a requirement," he said.

Christie is also arguing that he has the political skills to bring the party together and beat the likely Democratic nominee.

"Any significant division within the Republican Party leads to the same awful result," Christie told the audience at St. Anselm. "Close your eyes and picture Hillary Rodham Clinton on the front steps of the Capitol in January of 2017, taking the oath of office as president of the United States."

The stakes are high for Chris Christie in New Hampshire — and, he's warning his fellow Republicans, the stakes are high for them, too.

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