New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—who's considering a GOP run for president—said Thursday he's fine with the wealthy doing well, but believes the middle class needs economic protection.
The governor said he's going to probably decide next month whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination. The GOP needs to nominate someone with a track record of winning elections, he said—adding he's won twice in New Jersey.
Christie has been testing the presidential waters—holding five town hall meetings this month in New Hampshire whose first-in-the-nation primary is a key early political battleground state.
At one of those events earlier this month, he unveiled a five-point economic growth plan—including tax reforms and incentives to get people back to work.
"The debt and deficit problems become much more manageable over the long haul if you're at 4 percent GDP growth than when you're at 2 percent," Christie said. "It's true. It may be old, but it's true."
While touting the need for stronger growth nationally, he defended his record in New Jersey, which has seen budget troubles and nine credit rating downgrades during his tenure.
He said Democratic lawmakers in his state won't listen. "The problem is that they have not cut taxes in New Jersey," except for one purely business tax reduction.
Addressing the notion that his political star power has run its course, Christie argued that's nonsense, saying there was no way he was a shoe-in four years ago and he's "here and breathing" now.
If he runs, Christie would join a crowded field of official Republican candidates—including Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz—and possibly others who've yet to announce like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Besides the economy and domestic issues, foreign policy has already emerged as a big factor in the 2016 race, with questions about whether in hindsight the U.S. should have invaded Iraq tripping up Bush and Rubio.
As far as he's concerned, Christie believes the U.S. needs to bulk up its military. "We've shorted national defense in a significant way in this country."
"It's no wonder [Russia's] Vladimir Putin is doing what he's going in Eastern Europe with impunity," he continued, "[and] no wonder the Chinese are doing what they're doing in the South China Sea" as far as reclaiming land.
"They are not intimidated by the United States no longer and for good reason," he said.
The governor attributes the rise of the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East and Iran flexing its muscle in the region to the U.S. pullback from leadership in the world under Obama.
"What the world wants is for the U.S. to lead," he said, "because they know we don't have an ulterior motive to our leadership."
"When we pull back from that, the people who fill that vacuum want to be conquerors," he argued. "ISIS wants to be a conqueror. Russia wants to be a conqueror. Iran wants to be a conqueror."