POLITICS

Chris Christie Defends Himself Against Critics: 'I'm Still Standing'

02/26/2015 03:30 pm ET | Updated Feb 26, 2015

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) had a grueling month. From the controversial comments on vaccines he made in London to new budget problems at home, and a slew of bad polls in between, the governor's viability as a potential presidential candidate has become one of the biggest open questions in a contentious Republican primary.

Yet at an annual gathering of conservative activists and party leaders outside Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Christie rejected the notion that he was down for the count.

"When you do things that I’ve done in New Jersey to take on special interests frontally that they support," he said of his critics, "they just wanna kill you."

"Here’s the bad for them: Here I am. I’m still standing and I’m going to continue to do it," he said, speaking in a question-and-answer session at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Christie wasn't exactly in friendly territory at the conference, which tends to draw a younger and more libertarian wing of the Republican party, and he got a particularly tough series of questions from conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham. But the governor got a warm reception from the crowd all the same after he repeatedly criticized The New York Times and others in the media.

Asked to respond to his flagging poll numbers -- in the early primary states as well as in New Jersey -- Christie demurred.

"Is the election next week?" he said, noting the high poll numbers he enjoyed during his last re-election campaign. "If I decide to run [in 2016], I will run a hard, fighting campaign."

Christie also claimed he wasn't bothered by the rise of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, an establishment favorite for the 2016 nomination who has locked down many of the wealthy donors in Christie's backyard of New Jersey and New York.

"If the elites in Washington who make backroom deals decide who the president's going to be, then he’s definitely the front-runner," Christie said of Bush. "If the people of the United States pick who's going to be the next president of the United States, and they want someone who looks them in the eye, connects with them and is one of them, I'll do okay on my own."

Even so, Christie slipped in an offhand jab at Bush when he criticized the former Florida governor for taking pre-screened questions at recent events.

"Everybody who aspires to a high position of leadership should be willing to take unscreened, unrehearsed questions from the people who pay their salary," Christie said.

The governor reiterated his promise not to raise taxes as a way to address a budget shortfall. The comments are especially notable as they come shortly after a judge struck down $1.57 billion in cuts from the state’s public pension fund -- one of Christie's touted successes in New Jersey. However, he said that he had some regrets over his initial embrace of Common Core education standards, which remains a sore spot for many conservatives.

Christie also stood his ground with respect to concerns over his brash style, which critics say could hinder his ability to appeal to voters in America's heartland. He instead described himself as "passionate," and drew applause for saying that "sometimes people need to be told to sit down and shut up."

Watch Christie above.

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