EXETER, N.H. - Like spectators in the Roman Colosseum, the Republican faithful screamed for their favorite gladiator as he stood poised for the kill.

It had been, up to that point, a standard-fare, even tame, political rally on Sunday. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, quoted as he often does from "America the Beautiful." New Jersey Gov. Christie repeated material he has used before about the need to expand, not divide, the American pie.

But then two young women yelled at Christie while he was speaking: "Christie kills jobs! Christie kills jobs!"

Christie paused. He had one hand on the microphone and the other in his pocket.

"Really?" he asked.

The crowd roared; they knew what was coming.

And that's when he delivered a line destined for YouTube fame: "Something may go down tonight, but it ain't going to be jobs, sweetheart."

As the protesters were removed from the high school gymnasium, the Garden State governor pivoted off the women's chants to blast President Obama and boast about his own success in New Jersey.

"See, it's this confusion that's out there, because if [the protester] was in New Jersey . . . she would know that we created 60,000 private-sector jobs!" Christie roared.

He continued: "And if she wasn't so blinded by her Barack Obama-induced anger, she would know that American jobs are coming back when Mitt Romney is the president of the United States."

And finally: "If she wasn't so disoriented by the loss of 'hope and change,' she'd understand that Mr. Romney is the hope for America's future!"

Rallygoers, who said they were more familiar with Christie's "rough around the edges" personality than his positions on the issues, had gotten the red meat they had come for.

Ben Rose, 51, and his girlfriend, Lisa Cardinal, 49, drove an hour from Massachusetts to attend the rally, based in part on their desire to check out the man from New Jersey they had been hearing so much about.

Even before it began, Rose said that if it was a Romney-only rally, "it wouldn't have been as interesting."

"Maybe it's the next presidential ticket," Rose mused.

Cardinal saw a strategic advantage in putting Christie on Romney's ticket. "It seems like he would attract different voters that wouldn't go for Romney," Cardinal said. Though Romney "seems a little far removed," Christie "is right there, one of us."

Leaving the rally, New Hampshire voter Jean White said the only reason she attended was for Christie, and her man didn't disappoint. "He never does," she said.

She wished he was running for president. "He's got a lot of spunk, he's awesome," she said.

Because Romney is all but certain to win the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, Christie's support won't hand him the victory. But, significantly, it could earn Romney a few extra percentage points, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

"Chris Christie is the kind of person who really generates enthusiasm among people - and if they see him as enthusiastic about Romney, then they'll be enthusiastic about Romney," Murray said.

The trip also gets Christie on the news in New Hampshire, which is good for his own political future.

Christie flew to and from New Hampshire on the same day ahead of a busy week in Trenton. Dozens of bills are expected to be passed Monday and sent to his desk, his State of the State address is Tuesday, and Democrats are reportedly planning to introduce a gay-marriage bill.

Several New Jerseyans made the trip,.

Barbara Wright, a former New Jersey assemblywoman, said she was amazed by how many people in New Hampshire were familiar with Christie's Hurricane Irene exhortation to "get the hell off the beach."

But unbeknownst to Christie, there were also New Jersey Democrats in the crowd. The Curleys, political junkies from Caldwell, went to watch the phenomenon that is their governor. Carolyne Curley, 47, bit her tongue when Christie went after the protester.

"I wanted to yell, 'I'm from New Jersey and New Jersey has no jobs!' " she said.

Her husband, Jeffrey, 42, noted (correctly) that New Jersey's unemployment rate is still 9.1 percent, higher than the national average.

"He's a showman," Jeffrey Curley said. "And he's got political talents that have translated."

America will find out Tuesday how well Jersey translates into New Hampshire.

Contact staff writer Matt Katz at 609-217-8355, mkatz@phillynews.com, or @mattkatz00 on Twitter. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at philly.com/christiechronicles.