MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa - Gov. Christie used blunt terms as he brought his focus on terrorism to an Iowa diner Wednesday morning, attributing voter anxiety to "dead bodies" in recent attacks.
"What the president has discounted is, your anxiety is driven by the dead bodies in Paris. And the dead bodies in San Bernardino," Christie said at a town-hall meeting at Newton's Paradise Café in Waterloo, accusing President Obama of wrongly downplaying the anxiety "as some creation of cable news."
Christie was referring to a remark Obama reportedly made in an off-the-record session with journalists. The president said he didn't watch enough cable news to grasp the level of national anxiety after the recent attacks, according to a CNN characterization.
Christie also questioned the logic of Ted Cruz, one of his rivals for the Republican nomination, while referring to the Texas senator's recent pledge to carpet-bomb ISIS.
"You either carpet-bomb it or you target-bomb it, but you don't do both at the same time," Christie said. In the last GOP debate, Cruz said, "You would carpet-bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops."
"Listen, everybody, this is what happens when the only responsibility you have is to call 'yes' or 'no' when someone calls your name," Christie said, continuing his criticism of rivals with Senate experience.
At a later event in a restaurant in Marshalltown, a man voiced concern to Christie that Republicans were "beating up on each other."
"I'm not," Christie said, before drawing a distinction between not getting into a "tit-for-tat" with Donald Trump and disagreeing on issues.
After the event, he pushed back on a reporter who asked about his "attack" on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for skipping a budget vote: "You really call that an attack? Where are you from, man? Where I'm from, that's just like some polite conversation." (On Tuesday, Christie laid into Rubio over the missed vote: "Dude, show up to work.")
Fielding questions from voters inside the restaurant, Christie said he would be willing to compromise with other Republicans and Democrats to reform federal entitlement programs.
One area where he wouldn't compromise: "I will not raise taxes on the American people."
To a woman who said she had a 9-year-old son and was worried about mass shootings, Christie called for tougher enforcement of current gun laws, as well as more expansive laws to allow the involuntary commitment of people with mental-health issues.
"It's harder to get a driver's license than for me to walk into that Walmart store" and buy a gun, the woman told Christie. ("Not true," a man in the crowd called out.)
Christie called for "respectful" dialogue on guns, instead of people "on one side of this, who accuse folks of, they don't care about the Constitution. You've got folks on the other side who say, you don't care about people dying. It's not true."
Another woman, who told Christie she planned to caucus for him, asked about protecting gun rights, saying that with any rollback of those rights, "first they need to disarm Obama's security people."
"We should not disarm the Secret Service," Christie said. "As much as we disagree with the president, we do not want harm to come to him. That's not who we are."
In Waterloo earlier, Christie dismissed the prospect - raised by a voter - of a brokered GOP convention. "They write these stories every four years," Christie said.
In 2012's contest between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, "I was the white knight who was supposed to be riding in on a horse," Christie said. He said there wasn't a "wizard" behind the scenes: "If he's there or she's there, I haven't found them."
Christie, who has been stuck in the low single digits in Iowa polls, emphasized the importance of the Feb. 1 caucuses in winnowing the GOP field. As he promoted his experience - featuring his former role as U.S. attorney - he also told voters he was serious.
"I'm not doing this to get a Fox talk show. I'm not doing this to get a book deal," he said.