Christie plays name association game with emerging 2016 GOP field

Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, waits to speak at the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Goya Foods Inc. corporate headquarters in Jersey City, N.J. on April 29, 2015. (Photo by Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg/Getty)
Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, waits to speak at the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Goya Foods Inc. corporate headquarters in Jersey City, N.J. on April 29, 2015.

New Jersey Gov. Christie doesn't always talk tough. Sometimes he can be downright nice. Indeed, the bold and brash politician had kind words for his potential 2016 Republican presidential rivals when he played the name association game about the emerging GOP field on Wednesday morning.

The governor – who said he’ll make an official decision on whether or not he’ll run for president sometime in June – refrained from taking jabs at a number of presidential hopefuls during an appearance on "Fox and Friends." He was asked about former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and billionaire business mogul Donald Trump.

RELATED: Christie: Patriot Act debate is 'dangerous'

Here were some of the first words that came to Christie’s mind upon hearing their names:

Fiorina: “Very bright woman, who has had a lot to say in this race so far, and so I think she’s an important voice in the race.”

Rubio: “Very smart guy, and I know him personally. I like him”

Bush: “Worked with Gov. Bush during Hurricane Sandy. He gave me a lot of good advice during that time ... I like him.”

Walker: “We’ve been friends for a long time.”

Trump: “Donald’s a personal friend. I’ve known him for a long time ... He’s a smart guy who is never boring.”

Christie was also asked about Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton – but declined to say anything too negative. “If I become the Republican nominee, I’ll have a lot to say about that. In the end right now, I don’t think Mrs. Clinton has said much worthy of comment.”

During the television interview, the governor continued to urge for Congress to extend the Patriot Act – an issue that has divided much of the emerging GOP field. While discussing that topic, however, Christie did criticize Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has officially said he will seek the Republican nomination. The libertarian-minded Paul has hailed a recent court decision ruling that the federal government’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records as illegal. Earlier this month, Paul also held a 10-hour filibuster-like protest of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance program. Other critics, including GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, have said Chrsitie “should be ashamed of himself" for his comments about the Patriot Act. When he spoke about the issue recently, Christie said “you can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.”

RELATED: Christie changes his tune on pathway to citizenship for immigrants

“I agree with the folks in the intelligence community who have kept us safe for the past nearly 14 years now since 9/11,” Christie said Wednesday on Fox News. “The fact is all of the different people who are expressing opinions on this in the Senate right now, none of them have used the Patriot Act, none of them have prosecuted terrorists. I have. And so they talk about it from a speculative perspective. I talk about it from a real life perspective.”

Christie then criticized Lee and Paul for backing views similar to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who blew the lid on the agency’s secret surveillance program. Snowden is “a criminal and he’s hiding in Russia and he’s lecturing to us about the evils of authoritarian government while he lives under the protective umbrella of Vladimir Putin. That’s who Mike Lee and Rand Paul are siding with? With Edward Snowden? Hey, come on.”

The governor was also asked about how he has slid to the back of the pack of the emerging GOP field, with recent polls showing him with single-digit support. Christie brushed off the numbers, saying, “If you run, you go out and you campaign. You know, campaigns are always about changing minds ... and bringing people onto your side.”