The Republican presidential candidates on Wednesday squared off for their third televised debate. This time it was in the battleground state of Colorado. The debate, hosted by CNBC, was held on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder.
Chris Christie wasted no time in lashing out at Democrats. The New Jersey governor used his opening question about what he sees as his greatest weakness to instead launch an attack on three remaining Democratic candidates for president; Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Lawrence Lessig is also running as a Democrat but was not included in the CNN Democratic Debate on Oct 13 due to low poll numbers.
“I don’t see a lot of weakness on the stage quite frankly. Where I see the weakness is in those three people left on the Democratic stage. You know, I see a Socialist, an Isolationist, and a Pessimist, and for the sake of me I can’t figure out which one is which,” Christie said.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is a self-declared socialist. It’s not clear who is the isolationist but Christie said, ” I know who the Pessimist is, it’s Hillary Clinton. And if you put me on that stage with her next September, she won’t get within ten miles of the White House, take it to the bank.”
Later in the debate Christie said the Justice Department under President Obama has been a “political Justice Department.” The accusation came when he was asked whether he thought some General Motors executives should have been prosecuted and sent to jail for their role in a deadly ignition-switch defect scandal. Christie said they should be and added, “If I were a prosecutor that’s exactly where’d they be.”
On a question about whether a president should bring a moral authority to office, Christie turned that into an attack on the White House saying the President was weak on crime. Gov Christie said Obama hasn’t given police officers the support they need.
He noted FBI Director James Comey’s recent claim that police officers have become afraid to enforce the law thanks to ever-present cellphones and the threat of viral videos. In a speech last week, Comey claimed the anxiety is contributing to a rise in violent crime.
The White House said it disagrees with Comey’s analysis. But Christie said Obama should have backed up his FBI chief. He said the president’s top job is “to protect the safety and security of the American people” and “the president has failed.”
Christie said as president he’d support law enforcement, adding, “That’s real moral authority.”
Christie drew strong applause from the audience after he belittled one of the CNBC moderator’s questions that was directed at Jeb Bush on whether he thought betting in fantasy sports should be considered gambling. Bush responded that it’s something the federal government ought to look into. “Effectively, it’s day trading without any regulation at all,” Bush said.
Christie interjected after Bush finished speaking, “Are we really talking about getting the government involved in fantasy football? Wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt, we have people out of work, we have ISIS and al-Qaeda attacking us and we’re talking about fantasy football?”
Christie used his closing statement to make a direct plea to voters. Looking straight into the camera the governor asked if voters were fed up with Washington and said if they were that he’s the one who can change the culture in Washington.
Christie was one of ten Republican candidates featured in the primetime debate hosted by CNBC. He was joined on stage by Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee.
The four lowest-polling candidates participated in an earlier undercard event: South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former New York Gov. George Pataki. None has gotten close to breaking into the upper tier of candidates.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.