It happened just like clockwork: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign landed a coveted New Hampshire endorsement and Republican front-runner Donald Trump started attacking him.
“How is Chris Christie running the state of NJ, which is deeply troubled, when he is spending all of his time in NH? New Jerseyans not happy!” Trump tweeted on Monday morning.
Trump’s criticism comes after the conservative-leaning New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper announced over the weekend it was backing Christie, casting out a lifeline for the governor’s struggling campaign, which has been polling in the single digits in the state.
Joe McQuaid, publisher of the newspaper, said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” that Christie is well-equipped to beat Trump, who holds a substantial lead in the Granite State. “Christie is the guy who can take the fight to Trump, Hillary, ISIS,” McQuaid said.
The paper used its endorsement to take a veiled shot at Trump. “Other candidates have gained public and media attention by speaking bluntly. But it’s important when you are telling it like it is to actually know what you are talking about," the paper noted.
While Trump has gone after several other GOP candidates after they received a boost, including Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio, the billionaire business mogul has largely refrained from outright criticizing Christie — until now.
Christie responded to Trump's attack at an event in Portsmouth, N.H., where he secured the backing of Renee and Dan Plummer, prominent Republican activists in the state.
"I'm really glad that Donald noticed me, that’s so nice and I'm happy to take any observations he has even if he can only do them in 140 characters or less, which seems to be the best way he can communicate so that’s fine," the governor said. "I'm happy to be noticed and happy to be noticed by Donald, it’s a good day for me so I'm not worried about that at all."
The Union-Leader’s backing of Christie also seemed to grab former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s attention. Bush is zeroing in on the issue of guns — one on which Christie has a mixed record. Bush’s campaign circulated an op-ed the candidate wrote in The Iowa Republican on Monday in an email with the subject line “Jeb Bush: A Clear Choice on the Second Amendment.”
Christie, meanwhile, has spent the bulk of his campaign time in New Hampshire, a do-or-die state for the northeastern Republican. In fact, according to NECN’s candidate tracker, the governor has made 113 stops in New Hampshire, second only to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Still, Christie has struggled with gaining traction in the state — even after a video of Christie’s remarks on drug addiction at a town hall there went viral earlier this month.
According to Real Clear Politics’ average of polling data surrounding the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, Christie is in seventh place with 5.3% support. Ahead of him are Trump with 26%, Rubio with 12.5%, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 10.5%, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 9.5%, Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 7.8%, and Bush with 7.5%.