When: Today, Monday, August 3
Not too long ago, some influential Republicans viewed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the GOP candidate who could win back the White House in 2016. His victories in Democratic-leaning New Jersey and brash aggressiveness inspired confidence in his ability to take on Hillary Clinton. But then Christie was hobbled by the bridge-traffic scandal, downgrades in his state's credit rating, and the entry of establishment favorite Jeb Bush into the 2016 race. Now Donald Trump has supplanted him as the toughest-talking candidate in the field. Christie has jumped into the White House race anyway, even as he lags in the polls. He has sought to grab the spotlight with specific proposals on controversial subjects like entitlement reform (raising the retirement age and eliminating Social Security benefits for retirees with incomes above $200,000) and taxes (eliminating enough deductions to lower the top rate to 28 percent). He sat down to discuss the campaign over milkshakes with John Harwood at Lindy's Diner in Keene, N.H.
A partial transcript from Speakeasy with John Harwood featuring Gov. Chris Christie follows. All references must be sourced to CNBC.com:
CHRISTIE: New Jersey is three yards and a cloud of dust, John. New Jersey is grind-it-out every day in diners like this.
HARWOOD: So you know that this diner was manufactured in New Jersey.
CHRISTIE: Yes. I just heard it from the owner.
HARWOOD: I just looked on that little table jukebox over there. There's not one single Springsteen song in that jukebox.
CHRISTIE: Well, that is an outrage.
HARWOOD: Let me just start by asking you, what's going on in your party right now? It's a weird primary system.
CHRISTIE: It always is.
HARWOOD: Not this weird.
CHRISTIE: No. Listen-- you're telling me it wasn't this weird when Herman Cain was winning nationally four years ago or Michele Bachman was winning nationally? I mean-- this happens.
HARWOOD: Are you gonna be in that first debate?
CHRISTIE: Yes, sir.
HARWOOD: No worry about falling below the cut-off--
CHRISTIE: Not worried at all.
HARWOOD: How do you see your role in this race?
CHRISTIE: As being the most specific, most substantive guy in the race.
HARWOOD: Trump is casting himself as the straight-talk guy. He's the one who's telling the truth.
CHRISTIE: Yeah. Well listen, Donald's telling his version of the truth.
HARWOOD: Only the loudest voice gets heard--or the most outrageous voice gets heard.
CHRISTIE: That's part-- the fault of the candidate who's saying those things. That's part of the fault of the media. Some people are feeling the pressure to try to be outrageous to get on the news… and that's why ideas are the most important thing in this, John. Not whether you're getting the most attention or not at any one particular time. And as terms of the different kinda race it is-- well, the race became very different when Jeb Bush got into it. If the son and brother of two former presidents gets into a race, well then he becomes the establishment front runner immediately and you aren't. So I'll run a different race than the one I may have envisioned a while ago when he wasn't in the race.
HARWOOD: Bridge Gate. Credit downgrades. New Jersey's not happy with you. You just are playing a weak hand right now as a governor.
CHRISTIE: You know, I've governed in a deeply blue state, vetoed income tax increases, cut business taxes, cut the budget $2.5 billion less than it was eight years ago in discretionary spending. And in the last five and a half years we've got 192,000 new private sector jobs.
HARWOOD: Haven't you had slower job growth than other states?
CHRISTIE: Of c-- of course we have because we have higher taxes than anybody else. Now there's certain things you can do and there's certain things that you can't do 'cause you're not a dictator.
HARWOOD: For forty years, middle class wages have not gone up. Hillary Clinton says, "Change capital gains taxes to push investment to the future." Is she right?
CHRISTIE: No, she's wrong. 'Cause she's the-- th-- that's all baloney. Because what she's doing is just doing that to mask a tax increase. Mrs. Clinton-- does not know what she's talking about. You know what other proposals are to create jobs? Paid sick leave and raise the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage doesn't move anybody in the middle class.
HARWOOD: Are you against raising the minimum wage?
CHRISTIE: I'm against the $15 minimum wage for--
HARWOOD: Are you against $10?
CHRISTIE: Well, I don't-- we'd have to talk about it. But $15, it's gonna destroy jobs. But when you look at the changes that we've made in New Jersey. And the 192,000 families who have jobs who didn't have them don't think that's insignificant.
HARWOOD: You're not running on the New Jersey miracle.
CHRISTIE: No. There's-- been no miracle in New Jersey. New Jersey is three yards and a cloud of dust, John. Miracles are from God. What's happening in New Jersey is not a miracle. What's happening is grind-it-out progress on behalf of the people that I work for.
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