The morning after his combative performance in the Republican presidential debate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he thinks he succeeded in showing that Sen. Marco Rubio “is not ready to be president of the United States.”
“I’m glad the American people are getting to see this before they make a mistake,” Christie said on "Fox News Sunday," where he continued to criticize Rubio for repeating answers, almost verbatim, during the debate. The theme was picked up by former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who also appeared on the show and said that Rubio came across as “scripted” and “robotic” in the debate, the final formal face-off between the candidates before New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday.
Donald Trump, who was criticized during the debate for using eminent domain laws to try to take a homeowner's property during construction of a casino, pushed back Sunday, accusing the Bush family of using similar tactics to acquire property for a baseball stadium.
Several times Rubio repeated the phrase that it is “fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”
“There it is,” Christie said after one such utterance. “The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”
Chris Wallace, host of "Fox News Sunday," noting that Christie is a former prosecutor, asked him how he felt as "Rubio seemed almost to unravel like a witness under cross-examination personally on that stage."
"I felt justified, because I've been saying this for a long time. I don't think that people have been really listening," Christie said. "But the fact is there were a lot of people watching and listening last night."
Christie said the country needs “an experienced president.”
“And I have been tested, whether it was rebuilding my state after Hurricane Sandy or standing up to the Democratic legislature or teachers union, I'm tough enough to take on Hillary Clinton, but more importantly, tough enough to take on the problems that face the United States,” Christie said.
Wallace asked Christie about the notion that the party needed to get behind one of the “so-called establishment” candidates to stop front-runners Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. In defiance of the polls, Cruz won last week’s Iowa caucus. Trump was second, followed closely by Rubio. Polls in New Hampshire put Trump comfortably ahead, with Cruz and Rubio trailing by double digits.
“Well, listen, all week the media is trying to make that we coalesce around Marco Rubio,” Christie said. “After you saw that performance last night, do you think they should be coalescing around Marco Rubio? Do you think that's the kind of performance, that's the kind of leadership, that we want to see on the stage against Hillary Clinton?” he said.
Christie said he thinks the race will and should “go on for a while, so that the voters actually decide. You know, you guys make me laugh -- 180,000 people voted in Iowa. And you want to end the race.”
Bush, in a separate interview, also dismissed the idea of a consensus establishment candidate. “Let the voters decide this,” he said.
The former governor, who was Rubio’s political mentor in Florida, also said the freshman senator’s debate performance revealed a weakness. “He’s so gifted. He's a great speaker. But he came across as totally scripted and kind of robotic,” Bush said. “And he just missed the sense of -- the question was about leadership. ... Can you make a tough decision? And Marco is gifted, but he's never had the chance to actually make a tough decision like governors do.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich also appeared on the Sunday shows. Not only did he dismiss the suggestion of uniting behind an establishment candidate, he argued that he wasn’t one.
“I have never been in the establishment. I’m not anti-establishment,” he said on Fox.
“I make the establishment very nervous,” he insisted on CNN.
Rubio, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” defended his performance and said his campaign “raised more money last night in the first hour of that debate than any other debate.” He further declared: “Here's the truth of everybody on that stage: No one on that stage last night has more experience or better understanding of the national security issues before this country than I do. And that is the most important thing the president does. The president doesn't run the economy, but the president does have to be commander in chief.”
George Stephanopoulos, host of “This Week,” asked Rubio to respond to a remark Trump made during the debate that he would “bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring it back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
Rubio stopped short of saying he would use waterboarding, which has been banned by the Obama administration. “Suffice it to say that we are going to comply with whatever a civilized nation would do. But you have to treat terrorists differently than you do a street criminal,” he said.
Trump, asked about his comment in Sunday morning interviews, declined to specify what tactics he would use that would be harsher than waterboarding.
He also took a swipe at Bush, who scored a point in the debate when he criticized Trump for using eminent domain laws in an unsuccessful effort to seize the property of a widow in Atlantic City. The audience booed Trump when he shushed Bush during a back-and-forth exchange over the issue.
“Eminent domain is a very important thing. Jeb Bush doesn't understand what it means. And if you look into the Bush family -- I found this out five minutes ago. They used eminent domain for the stadium in Texas, where they own, I guess, a piece of the Texas Rangers,” Trump said.
“That was George W. Bush,” Stephanopoulos said.
“That doesn't matter. It was the Bush family. They used private eminent domain. He didn't tell anybody this. So I mean, he should have told people. Maybe -- he probably doesn't know, because I don't even think he knows what eminent domain is. But I just found that out five minutes ago,” Trump said.
George W. Bush, before becoming Texas governor, was part owner of the Texas Rangers, which according to news reports, relied on eminent domain laws to acquire property for a stadium.