Gov. Christie has emphasized conservative credentials in the race for the Republican nomination. But at a campaign stop in Portsmouth, N.H., Tuesday, he heard from voters seeking a candidate who would stand up to the party on a variety of positions.
Awaiting Christie at Popovers on the Square was Nancy Pierce of Rye, who began questioning the governor as soon as he shook her hand.
On the retired high-school principal's mind: the Republican Party's "intolerance" toward Muslims and others, Obamacare, women's rights, U.S. Supreme Court appointments, the prospect of "boots on the ground" in the Middle East.
"You're not going to hear any intolerance from me," Christie said. As a former prosecutor, he said, he could "tell the difference between a radical Islamic jihadist and someone who's a peace-loving Muslim. … We're going to continue to make that distinction."
Christie told Pierce he'd get rid of Obamacare, and would seek advice from justices like Samuel Alito to make court appointments.
As for women, "I'm a product of a very strong mom, and the husband of a very strong wife," Christie said. He said he wants his two daughters to know "their sense of values and self worth comes from inside them." When Pierce asked about Roe v. Wade, he told her, "I'm opposed. I'm pro-life."
"We covered a lot of war front in a few minutes," Christie said.
Afterward, Pierce said Christie's position on abortion was "a problem" for her. And she still had questions about how aggressive his military policy would be. "I'm nervous," she said.
An independent voter, Pierce hasn't voted in the Republican primary in years – but said she may do so this election, "because I'm so worried about (Donald) Trump and (Texas Sen. Ted) Cruz." She's considering Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Christie got pressed on climate change by Gary Doyle, 63, of Portsmouth, who handed the governor one paper on ice cores, and another linking climate change to instability in the Middle East. "Haven't we talked before?" Christie asked Doyle. "Gosh, you look familiar." (They hadn't, Doyle said.)
Doyle, a former electrical engineer and registered independent, said he was "very disappointed with the general Republican denying" of climate change, but plans to vote in the GOP primary.
The Democratic side is "pretty much a done deal," Doyle said. Right now, he's stuck between Christie, Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – looking for a "strong Republican who's going to act like an adult, and throw the Trump side of the party out in the dirt."
After getting vetted on his positions, Christie met with a different demand. A young man in a Yankees sweatshirt, sitting at the back of the cafe, asked Christie to sign about a dozen photos, including one of Christie and Obama. The governor obliged, and the man got up and left with the photos – which he told a reporter he planned to sell on eBay.