NEW YORK – August 27, 2012 – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, joined by his wife Mary Pat, spoke with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier today from the floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum. In advance of Christie’s keynote address at the Republican National Convention, the interview will air in full tomorrow on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” (weekdays 6 -9 a.m. ET). A rush transcript of part of the interview is below. If used, please credit “Morning Joe.”
Mika Brzezinski: How are you feeling? How’s it going?
Christie: I feel good
Mika: You getting ready?
Christie: Yeah, I’m ready.
Mika: To entertain or inform or both?
Christie: You know, I think more inform than entertain. I think my style can be entertaining at times, even unintentionally. But I think it’s my job to set up the vision of the party for the next four years and I’m taking it seriously. And I think it’ll be more informed than entertaining.
ON TODAY’S ‘NEW YORK POST’ REPORT:
Joe Scarborough:- Obviously a lot of people will be chattering about the NY Post article today, that you don’t think Mitt Romney can win.
Christie – Yeah, just completely shoddy reporting. Much of what was said in that story just wasn’t true. And they never talked to me. Both of those folks know me, so if they wanted to talk to me, they could’ve.
Joe – So you think Mitt Romney can win?
Christie – I think he’s gonna win.
Joe – Yeah?
Christie – I do. So that story is just — I guess they needed something to write since the convention was cancelled for Monday.
Joe – There are a lot of people who are talking about when a lot of party leaders were trying to drag you into this race, back last fall, there were many people that said that you were not conservative enough to be the Republican nominee.
Christie – Yeah, I don’t quite get that.
Joe – Do you think that the Republican party that you’re talking to this week — are they Christie Republicans? Are you the mainstream of the Republican party?
Christie – It’s hard for me to judge what the mainstream is, Joe. You know that. I think that’s something that other people judge. From my perspective, no matter where I travel in this country, and I’ve been to 30-plus states, my message is received very well wherever I go. And these are Republican hardcore activists, fundraisers, office holders. I just was meeting earlier today with the Speaker of the Alabama House.
Joe – Are there a lot of Christie fans in Alabama?
Christie – Yeah, Speaker Hubbard is great. A big Auburn guy. So he didn’t want me saying “Roll Tide.” He’s talking about the [War?] Eagles. So everywhere I’ve gone, my message has been received well. So whether that means I’m the mainstream of the party or not, I think everybody tries to fit you into these little boxes. And I think that I don’t, in many ways, fit into a little box.
Mika – No. So what about your candidate and the question as to whether he is conservative or not? How will this convention be able to reset the tone of the campaign?
Christie – I think that the conservative enough thing — I think that’s going to be determined Tuesday night, right? He’s going to be nominated. So the majority of the party thinks he’s good enough, conservative enough, in line with the principles of the party. I think his affirmation as the nominee tomorrow will answer that question. And I think every convention has the opportunity to reset a campaign and the Democrats will have that opportunity next week. But it’s going to come down to the major speeches in this convention and are those speeches and the things that we talk about — are they going to appeal to the mainstream of the country. And I think Gov. Romney’s speech being the most important one.
ON PREPARING FOR THE KEYNOTE ADDRESS:
Joe:- Let’s move up toward the stage. So how do you prepare for a speech like this? I mean it’s hard enough for the state of New Jersey. So there’s no doubt that the Jersey crowd is a tough crowd. But how do you prepare for something like this?
Christie – I prepared differently this time from the way that I normally prepare for speeches. And you know that I don’t normally give a lot of prepared speeches. So first of all, the writing of a text is a little different
Joe – You’re not used to that, right?
No, I don’t use text almost ever. So most of the time I think about what it is I want to talk about and then I get up there and I talk about it. Now, with the time restrictions here and obviously the different stage, they want you to work off a text and that’s fine. And so the difference this time has been for me, I’ve worked with a much smaller circle of people. In my state addresses, I’ll show it to a lot of different people. This one has been three or four folks and that’s it. Because I didn’t want too many voices in my head on this.
Joe- Is it going to be tough for you to be tied to a teleprompter? Because again, people like Bill Clinton, for instance. He’s much better off the top of his head than Barack Obama or Ronald Reagan, who were great at reading for the teleprompter. Is it going to be tough for you?
Christie- Well it’s less natural for me. But I think my challenge up there is gonna be to be natural and be myself. Gov. Barbour saw one of my folks yesterday on the floor here and he said “Tell Chris: ‘Be Chris.’” And I think that’s what I’ll do. Tomorrow if that means I stray a little off the prompter every once in a while– you know. That’s the way it goes.
ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY:
Joe – We’ve talked a good bit in the past about how this Republican party over the past 20 years has confined itself to the deep south. You look at what’s happening now. We’ve got you in New Jersey, one of the most popular governors in the nation. You’re plus-20 in the polls. Mitt Romney from MA, Paul Ryan from WI. Is this a Republican party that could be breaking out of that deep south strategy that they’ve been in since ’88?
Christie- I think so. If you look at some of the folks. In addition to the folks that you mentioned, John Kasich in Ohio is a very different kind of Republican. You served with him. John’s different, so you’re seeing a lot of different places that we’re building up a real ground game amongst our governors. Susanna Martinez in New Mexico has a 60% approval rating in New Mexico so she’s a very different kind of governor.
Joe – What has led you to be plus-20 from the position where you were minus-20 when we first started interviewing you in 2009-2010?
Christie – I’ve continued to be myself. And I haven’t changed from the time I got into the job until now. I’m saying the same things, doing the same things, and standing up. And I think what people have come to realize in New Jersey is “he means it. He’s not just a politician saying what might be the popular thing at the moment” because they see me say unpopular things at the moment, stick with it, and then have it turn to become something popular and more accepted. And so I think that the way we’ve been able to do it is just being ourselves. And also bringing things down to a common denominator. For instance, I say to people in New Jersey all the time “there’s lots of programs that I have to cut that I like.” But it’s a math equation. I don’t have the money. Now I have to prioritize, even amongst the things that I like in terms of what things get saved and what things get cut. People understand that because they do it themselves. People who are struggling right now in their own homes, they’re making those choices too. There’s things that they give up that they don’t want to give up but they have to because they don’t have the money. And I think when I talk to them in that way, it’s something they can really relate to and it’s not gibberish, focus group tested, blow-dried stuff that they think “we’re hearing the same thing over and over again.” I certainly don’t sound like a lot of people in that way, I think.
MIKA – The polls are showing that Mitt Romney and President Obama are pretty much neck and neck. With the Republicans that we’ve had on the show and the criticism that your party has of how the President is doing and how badly the last three years have gone, why isn’t Mitt Romney doing better?
CHRISTIE – I would turn it around the other way, Mika. It’s a valid question but it’s just as valid a question to say “If you’re an incumbent president who won a big election four years ago, you’ve grossly outspent Mitt Romney up to this point, and you’re not winning?” People are still getting to know Mitt Romney. Everyone knows the President. There’s no miracle that’s going to happen between now and November. Oh I didn’t know that about President Obama. Now that I know that, I’m gonna vote for him. There can be moments like that starting on Thursday night on this stage for Gov. Romney. And you’re going to see Gov. Romney end up spending a lot more money than the President, it appears, between Labor Day and Election Day which I think is going to help to accelerate his pace since he’s picked up Paul Ryan and moved up in the polls.
ON TODD AKIN AND WOMEN VOTERS:
Mika – What about women? He’s doing very badly with women voters. It hasn’t gone well over the past week to two weeks. How’s he going to fix that?
Christie – He’s got to work on it. He’s got to show them who he is. In the end, these other guys don’t matter. They’re background noise. Todd Akin in Missouri, who’s a joke and should get out of the race and everybody knows it, except for him apparently. I think even he knows it but he’s trying to look for a graceful way out. You know, what’s going to matter is Gov. Romney. He’s going to have to talk to — and I don’t think you talk particularly to women, Mika, or particularly to men. If you try to do that, you look like a phoney. It’s like me looking in your eyes and thinking “what does Mika want to hear? Let me figure out what she want to hear and then say it.” In that particular instance it’d be difficult. But I think you have to talk about the issues. Let me say this. At my house, I don’t think that Mary-Pat feels any differently about our future for our children than I do. She wants certain core things to be good about our country, opportunity to be available to them, I think you need to speak to that.
Mika- Speaking of Mary-Pat, how nervous are you. Is he going to be okay?
Mary-Pat – I’m not nervous at all. Excited but not nervous. He’s cool as a cucumber.
Christie – Lots of people have asked me if I’m nervous. And I say no because I know I won’t be. I won’t be nervous, I’ll be anxious. I’ll be ready. By 10:30 I’m going to be like that horse in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. I’m going to be banging up against that gate waiting to get out here and do it. But that won’t be about nerves. Everyone in our family, and I think it’s been interesting because our kids have been involved because we did a lot of rehearsing for the speech when we were away on vacation at the Jersey Shore, so the kids have gotten to see it. So they’re a lot more involved in this than they were before so they’re excited about it too but I don’t think anybody is here thinking “jeez, I hope Dad doesn’t get up there and choke.”
Mika – Are the kids here?
Christie – Yeah, all four of them are here and they’re all experiencing this and traveling around to some of the different events so it’s really great. So for us as a family, we say we’re not nervous but we do look around here and say two and a half years ago, three years ago right now, I was in the worst part of my campaign against John Corzine, our lead had evaporated to nothing, he had been pounding me with negative ads for three months, it was negative personally against me and Mary-Pat and members of my family and friends, this was a real low point. And three years later I’m standing on this stage with you two talking about giving the keynote address. It’s like, it’s just amazing. Believe me, I get how amazing it is.
Joe – You’ve talked to Mika. Mika’s got her book that’s going to be coming out, it’s about body image and everything else. The New York Post article today, you said it was shoddy reporting, but also the headline was deeply personal. Does that sting?
Christie – I don’t let it sting, Joe. I talked to Mika about this for her book and I just don’t let it get to me anymore. Because I understand that people who engage in this kind of stuff are so shallow and so narrow and don’t understand the issues that go along with good health and weight loss and all the rest of it. No, I don’t let it bother me. It bothers Pat more than it bothers me.
Mary-Pat – I’m kind of immune to it now.