Pollster Says Good Showing In New Hampshire Can Turn Gov's Uphill Battle Around

LIVINGSTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who spent three years as president of his high school class, returned to his alma mater Tuesday to announce he’s running for president of his country.

The Republican governor launched his campaign in the old gymnasium of Livingston High School in the town of Livingston, where he experienced some of his first political victories.

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PHOTOS: Christie Announces 2016 Presidential Run

“I am now ready to fight for the people of the United States of America,” Christie said. “America is tired of hand-wringing and indecisiveness and weakness in the Oval Office. We need to have strength and decision making and authority back in the Oval Office, and that is why today I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for president of the United States of America.

Watch Christie’s Announcement:

“When I stand up on a stage like this in front of all of you, there’s one thing you will know for sure: I mean what I say and I say what I mean, and that’s what America needs right now,” he added.

Christie, who came onstage to Bon Jovi’s “We Weren’t Born to Follow” and was flanked by his wife and four kids, started the rally by speaking about his parents, who came from modest upbringings, and touting his accomplishments as governor.

“When I became governor six years ago, we had a state that was in economic calamity, an $11 billion deficit on a $29 billion budget, a state that had taxes and fees raised on it 115 times in the eight years before I became governor, a state that no longer believed that any one person could make a difference in the lives of the people of this state,” Christie said. “And so we rolled up our sleeves, and we went to work, and we balanced six budgets in a row. We’ve refused to raise taxes on the people of this state for six years.”

He also blasted Washington as being broken.

“Americans are filled with anxiety,” Christie said. “They are filled with anxiety because they look to Washington, D.C., and they see a government that not only doesn’t work anymore; it doesn’t even talk to each other anymore. It doesn’t even try to pretend to work anymore. We have a president in the Oval Office who ignores the Congress, and a Congress that ignores the president. We need a government in Washington, D.C., that remembers you went there to work for us, not the other way around.”

Running on the slogan “Telling it like it is,” Christie did not even spare his own party from criticism.

“Both parties have failed our country,” he said. “Both parties have stood in the corner and held their breath and waited to get their own way. Both parties have led us to believe that in America, a country that was built on compromise, that somehow now compromise is a dirty word.”

But Christie, of course, took particular aim at President Barack Obama and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“After seven years, I heard the president of the United States say the other day that the world respects America more because of his leadership,” the governor said. “This convinces me, it is the final confirmation that President Obama lives in his own world, not in our world. And the fact is this: After seven years of a weak and feckless foreign policy run by Barack Obama, we better not turn it over to his second mate, Hillary Clinton.”

Christie promised to fix a broken entitlement system and strengthen the United States’ position overseas.

Livingston High School is where Christie attended classes with his former Port Authority appointee David Wildstein, who is cooperating with federal prosecutors probing the scandal at the George Washington Bridge.

The governor has not been implicated in the lane closures, believed to be political retribution aimed at Fort Lee’s mayor for not supporting Christie’s re-election bid, but two others in his inner circle have been charged.

As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, outside the school as Christie announced his candidacy, hundreds of protesters bashed the governor’s overall record and chanted, “We want our pension!”

Many of the protesters represented teachers, public employee unions and environmental groups. All have clashed with Christie over the last several years. They carried signs that ran from the caustic to the humorous. One man held a sign that read: “Christie for President: Fuhgeddaboudit.”

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“You’re looking at New Jersey under Gov. Christie,” said protester Susan Dziob, pointing at a poster. “We have political retribution, a slow-growing economy.”

“I think that the word is out there what a lousy governor he was and he would make a lousy president,” another protester said.

“He has a little Ponzi scheme to take our pensions,” teacher Jodi Paige told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

“He is a bully, which is what teachers are trying to teach everyone not to be,” Paige added.

One supporter told Sloan that the governor’s strength through adversity is what makes him fit to be president.

“He says what he mean and he means what he says and he doesn’t let anything deter him from achieving his objectives,” Imam Mustafa El-Amin said.

While protesters vented about pensions, Livingston Mayor Michael Silverman was angry that he wasn’t in the building for the Christie announcement, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

“The mayor, the deputy mayor and two of the three councilmen were not invited,” Silverman said. “Disappointed, frustrated, a little insulted but more surprised than anything else.”

According to a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Tuesday, just 30 percent of New Jersey voters say they approve of the job Christie has done, with 55 percent saying they disapprove.

Democrats released a statement taking a shot at Christie’s “Telling it like it is” slogan, saying he had better get ready for some straight, blunt talk that he may not like.

Christie’s got other problems. He’s on the bottom of most polls rating the 14 major GOP contenders. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and business mogul Donald Trump are at the top.

Known for his ability to hold a crowd, Christie may not get in the first Republican debate focusing on the top 10 candidates. Political analysts say it may not matter because he’s doing better in New Hampshire, a key state.

“He can get those 60 or 65,000 votes and potentially come out of New Hampshire as one of the top five,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray. “So it doesn’t matter what the national polls are saying right now.

“Going one to one, and that’s where Chris Christie beats the entire field. There is no better one-on-one campaigner than Chris Christie right now,” Murray added.

Christie was to participate in a town hall meeting Tuesday night in New Hampshire.

Political experts say Christie will face the challenge of proving himself on the national stage.

“He’s standing out because people know him because of his bluntness, but also because the George Washington Bridge scandal has really hurt him and also New Jersey’s economic problems,” said CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris.

Christie launched his campaign website, ChrisChristie.com, over the weekend. He has been laying the groundwork for a White House bid for months. The governor considered a bid in 2012 before deciding to pass on a campaign.

A key New Jersey Democratic lawmaker is calling on Christie to resign as governor if he runs for president.

Speaking Monday during a conference call with reporters, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said the Republican governor has a job to do in New Jersey and should be in the state doing it, rather than campaigning across the country.

Other Democrats and liberal groups have been making similar calls.

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