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Chris Christie Bets On New Hampshire In GOP Presidential Race


Chris Christie is shadowed by scandal, and his poll numbers were so low he got kicked off the main stage for the last debate. The New Jersey governor is betting on New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary, to keep him in the race for the Republican nomination. As Matt Katz of member station WNYC reports, terrorism has become the main focus of Christie's campaign.

MATT KATZ, BYLINE: It was a standing-room crowd packed inside the firehouse in tiny Loudon, N.H.


CHRIS CHRISTIE: I'm not going to use the mic. I think we all know the words. You ready?

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

KATZ: Instead of an American flag, the crowd was asked to face a poster on the wall with a photo of firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero. Fear of another September 11-style attack hung heavy over Chris Christie's 36th town hall meeting in New Hampshire. He's been to the state more than any other candidate. Christie opened the town hall talking about terrorism.


CHRISTIE: Our world war is happening right now, and it's been happening.

KATZ: Christie's supporters say that focus is one reason the New Jersey governor is getting a second look from the state's voters.

RENEE PLUMMER: They're going to come here, and we need somebody in the White House that's going to protect us. And that's what I think he could do for us.

KATZ: Renee Plummer is a real estate developer and prominent New Hampshire Republican. She just endorsed Christie, a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted terrorism cases after September 11. He also scored a highly-coveted endorsement from the state's biggest the newspaper, the Union Leader. That endorsement said Christie would keep the country safe.


CHRISTIE: If you're too afraid to go to a Friday night football game or a Saturday afternoon baseball game at Fenway Park - or Shea Stadium back then where I used to go - if you're too afraid to do that, nothing else works.

KATZ: Christie's poll numbers remain stuck in the single digits for now, and a federal criminal trial looms over three of his former appointees for shutting down a bridge to punish a local mayor. That hasn't fazed some voters. At Janie's Diner in Londonderry, Phil George introduced his 94-year-old mother, Florence.

PHIL GEORGE: This is Florence.

CHRISTIE: Florence? Chris.

GEORGE: She's been on your bandwagon for two years, Governor.

CHRISTIE: You've been on my bandwagon for two years?


CHRISTIE: Got lonely there a couple times, didn't it, Florence?



KATZ: In a sign of Christie's newfound prominence in the race, he was attacked on Twitter this week for the first time by Donald Trump. Trump noted that Christie is deeply unpopular in his home state. That's in part because of a weak economy. But for now, New Hampshire voters are more interested ISIS than Christie's record in New Jersey. For NPR News in Manchester, N.H., I'm Matt Katz. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.