ELECTIONS

Christie Optimistic on New Hampshire Primary Day

By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent

The building on the right is one of two state headquarters for the Christie campaign. Inside, volunteers this morning worked the phones and awaited the arrival of their candidate along with a few New Jerseyans.

What kind of feel does Tom Kean Jr. get for Christie in New Hampshire? “Really positive, a lot of energy.”

Including Christie’s father.

“We’re up today, Michael. Today’s the day,” Bill Christie said. How does he know? “In my bones,” he said.

The bus carrying Christie and his family pulled in a little after 10.

What kind of feel did the governor get today? “It’s really good, Michael. The last 72 hours here have been incredible in terms of the crowds, the reaction. All anyone wants to talk to me about is the debate, and the debate changed their minds,” he said. “I was walking out of my hotel room this morning and there was a maintenance man who was cleaning up one of the conference rooms and he came out and he said to me, ‘governor, I’m voting for you today because you schooled Rubio in the debate, and you’re the guy that can school Hillary Clinton.'”

Has it been worth doing, win or lose? “Oh, gosh, yes. What an extraordinary honor to get a chance to run for president of the United States,” he said.

Inside the headquarters, Christie thanked his supporters and urged the volunteers to keep at it today.

“Don’t think today is celebration time. There will be celebration time after 7 tonight when the polls close, but I can’t have any of you let up now,” he said.

He told them nobody knows how tonight will turn out — not Bush, not Cruz, not Rubio, not Kasich.

Last night, at his final New Hampshire town hall, Christie talked about advancing to the next round of primaries, but he sounded hopeful, not certain.

“I’ve got a flight scheduled for South Carolina on Wednesday morning. I intend to take it,” he said.

As workers laid signs outside a Greek Orthodox church complex in Manchester, Christie readied himself for his fourth town hall of the day. He told the audience he can take a punch and get back up.

“My political career I’ve been knocked down. I’ve been knocked down by the media, by the Democrats in my state. I’ve been knocked down by an incumbent Democratic governor who outspent me $33 million to $11 million in a Democratic state and I get up. I get up and I fight back. And what you saw from me on Saturday night is when people tried to tell me and the chattering class on TV that this race was over and that everyone was supposed to coalesce behind Sen. Rubio and they put us on the ground, we got back up, because that’s what we do,” he said.

His closing argument, it turns out, leans heavily on the idea he’s a fighter.

“You’ll never have to wonder what I’m willing to fight for because you’ll see me fighting for it, loudly and directly. You’ll never have to wonder how hard I’m willing to fight, because I’ve fought my whole life to get to this spot tonight. No one handed this to me,” he said.

Christie’s went on for two hours, taking a light shot at Donald Trump, harder shots at Hillary Clinton.

It was hard to find someone in the audience who didn’t like him.

“I love him. I love him. He definitely has my vote. I was undecided before we came here tonight, but he definitely has my vote,” said New Hampshire resident Terri Adamakof.

“He’s an outstanding, honest politician,” said Brian Murray who said he would probably vote for him.

“I went and saw every single candidate multiple times and when I saw Gov. Christie, I went up to him and said, ‘I don’t want to just vote for you, sir, I want to work for you,'” said Catherine Johnson.

After four town halls, Christie was still mixing it up with supporters, the curious, the star-struck and the media.

We asked him how well he had to do. “Michael, I got to do well. I don’t know what that’s going to mean. I changed this race on Saturday night. There was a march toward Sen. Rubio. That march is now over. And so the equation has changed. They’re seeing who I really am. I think I’m going to do well tomorrow,” he said.

By this morning we only had one question left.

If you don’t do well tonight, would you suspend the campaign? “I have absolutely no intention of doing that at all. I can’t imagine a scenario tonight under which I wouldn’t be on the plane to South Carolina tomorrow morning, but we’ll see,” he said.

Whatever happens, he’s worked it hard.