Christie makes voters curious, not excited

Christie town hall
Chris Christie answers questions from voters in Davenport on Jan. 29. (Morgan Gilbard/MEDILL)

By Morgan Gilbard

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Presidential hopeful Chris Christie drew more uncertain voters than die-hard fans to his town hall forum Friday night. Voters dissatisfied with the Republican frontrunners came to give Christie a look – and left with greater respect for the New Jersey governor.

“I think Donald Trump is a bully,” said Fran Draude, a retired mailman and undecided voter. “The other people are negative. We’re tired of that and they’ve done that for too long. And it’s time for a change.”

Recognizing that he might have voters like Draude in the audience, Christie took advantage of the spotlight with a well-practiced Trump impression.

“I’m gonna make everyone incredibly wealthy,” Christie said in a deep New York accent. “Not as wealthy as me, but incredibly, incredibly wealthy.”

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Some spectators said they appreciated Trump’s rejection of the “politically correct,” but think he sometimes goes too far with his attacks on people he casts as outsiders, including illegal Mexican immigrants and Muslims.  By contrast, they see Christie as tough, experienced and respectful.

“Trump has a lot to say, but also nothing to say. I’m really impressed with Christie and respect him immensely,” said Linda Renkes, who named “Muslims” as her greatest concern this election season. Christie has never expressed such views publicly and rather looks to the Middle East to address the ISIS threat.

Christie promised to fulfill expectations set by his slogan, “telling it like it is,” and most voters left the forum satisfied.

“He doesn’t seem scripted at all. People are drawn to him,” said Nathan Paige, a student at St. Ambrose University and one of the few young voters in attendance. “He has enough willpower to take on Hillary Clinton.”

In a race with so many GOP candidates, few political analysts believe that Christie a comeback can happen at Monday’s caucuses alone. FiveThirtyEight projects that Christie will finish in the bottom of the back at 3.2 percent.

The most Christie could do was ask for Iowa votes

“Your vote could never be wasted,” he said. “You people always turn things upside down. Who knows what you’re going to do Monday night?”

Photo at top: Chris Christie answers questions from voters in Davenport on Jan. 29. (Morgan Gilbard/MEDILL)