HUDSON, N.H. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday said his 2013 race for reelection against a female opponent has helped prepare him for a potential campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The likely Republican presidential contender was asked during a town hall event in New Hampshire Monday evening why he believed he would be well-suited to run against the favorite for the Democratic nomination if he chooses to run and wins his party’s nomination.

Among his reasons, Christie cited his commanding victory over Democrat Barbara Buono during his re-election campaign.

“Everybody thought, `Oh no, no — look at this — this is going to be bad. Christie’s going to lose his cool. This woman’s yelling at him all the time. He’s going to yell back at her. It’s going to ugly really fast and he’s going to lose,”’ Christie recalled.

“I think that experience of campaigning under that kind of stress, in that atmosphere, against that type of opponent, prepares you extraordinarily well to be able to run against Secretary Clinton, if that’s what I chose to do,” he said.

Christie won re-election over Democratic Buono in a landslide.

During his victory speech in Asbury Park in November 2013, Christie emphasized the struggles he had led to recover after Superstorm Sandy a year earlier.

“The spirit of Sandy will stay with us well beyond the days that the recovery will take,” Christie said in the speech, adding, “I will govern with the spirit of Sandy.”

But the Bridgegate scandal erupted a short time later. It involved an alleged plot to close lanes of traffic on the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee as political payback against that community’s Democratic mayor for failing to support Christie’s re-election campaign.

Earlier this month, David Wildstein, who went to high school with Christie and later became a top official in the Port Authority, pleaded guilty to two criminal counts in the incident.

Christie has claimed he knew nothing of the plot and has been working to move past the Bridgegate scandal. But on Monday, he also suggested that he’d been held to a different standard that Clinton.

Clinton has come under scrutiny for using a private email server when she was secretary of state. He said that, as a Republican, he believes he would have faced far greater scrutiny had he done the same thing.

CHRISTIE ALSO CALLS FOR EXPANDED MILITARY

Christie also made the case Monday for a more active U.S. presence overseas, including a larger military and defended the government’s intelligence-collection efforts in a speech laying out his foreign policy platform.

He appeared to criticize President Barack Obama’s approach to the Islamic State militants and the emerging nuclear deal with Iran, as well Russia’s backing of separatists in Ukraine and China’s encroachment in the South China Sea.

“All these things are happening because American power is in retreat and we’ve backed away from the principles that made us a source of strength and stability,” said Christie, standing on the bank of the Piscataqua River, with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the distance behind him. “No one understands any longer whom America stands with or whom we stand against. No one understands exactly what we stand for and what we’re willing to sacrifice to stand up for it.

Christie, who worked as a U.S. attorney before he was elected governor, also offered an unapologetic defense of the U.S.’s intelligence-collection efforts. He noted that in that job he had used provisions of the Patriot Act in pursuing terrorists, and said the country needs to toughen its anti-terror and surveillance laws, not weaken them.

He took specific aim at former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who in 2013 leaked thousands of documents to journalists. Among Snowden’s revelations: NSA had for years been secretly collecting data about millions of Americans’ landline phone calls.

“When Edward Snowden revealed our intelligence secrets to the world in 2013, civil liberties extremists seized that moment to advance their very own narrow agenda,” he said. “They want you to think that there’s a government agent listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids. They want you to think our intelligence community are the bad guys _ straight out of the `Bourne Identity’ or some other Hollywood thriller. They want you to think that if we weakened our capabilities, the rest of the world would somehow love us more.”

“Let’s be clear, all these fears are exaggerated and ridiculous. When it comes to fighting terrorism, our government is not the enemy,” he said.

Last week more than 300 House members voted to end the NSA’s bulk phone records collection program and replace it with a system to leave the data with telephone companies and allow the NSA to search the data on a case-by-case basis. The supporters of ending the program include Democrats and Republicans, and even the NSA doesn’t object to having private companies store the data.

Independent reviews have found that the bulk collection program did not foil a single terrorist attack.

In addition to his defense of intelligence gathering, Christie also called for boosting defense spending. He said that automatic budget cuts imposed a few years ago should be immediately reversed and called for new investments, including more ships for the Navy and a larger Air Force.

He also made the case that the U.S. must do more to support its allies overseas, including intervening more frequently to serve as a force for global stability.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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