| Jocelyn Augustino, American Media Institute

Chris Christie: ‘Not a dime’s worth of difference’ between Obama and Cruz/Rubio

Chris Christie punched at the knees of Republican presidential leaders Sunday, reminding Iowans that two of his better-polling opponents are as unprepared for the White House as Barack Obama was in 2008. 

There is “not a dime’s worth of difference” between either Sen. Ted Cruz or Sen. Marco Rubio and Obama, a former first-term senator who went directly to the Oval Office, Christie said at a campaign stop in Ames, Iowa the night before the caucus. 

The New Jersey governor said Cruz of Texas and Rubio of Florida are equal to President Obama in terms of inexperience. He also poked fun at businessman Donald Trump, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.).

Christie said Cruz's and Rubio’s performances at the most recent GOP debate last week displayed a lack of the leadership a president needs. During the debate, Cruz and Rubio were confronted with video compilations of each of them appearing to change positions on immigration reform, namely on their support for amnesty or a pathway to citizenship.

Christie said the two senators’ refusal to admit they had changed their minds on the issue slighted the intelligence of voters.

“They just started twisting themselves into pretzels trying to convince you what you just heard, you hadn’t heard, and what you just saw you hadn’t seen,” he told a crowd of about 150. “Just like the audience at home, I needed a Washington-to-English dictionary to convert the way these people speak.”

Throughout the debates, Christie has contrasted his responsibilities as a governor to the work habits of legislators. He argued that executive offices require action and accountability, while lawmakers primarily talk and grandstand. Exchanges like the one between Cruz and Rubio at the last debate only further prove his preparedness by comparison, he said.

“We do not need another first-term senator as president of the United States. Barack Obama has failed us over the last seven years because he is incompetent and doesn’t know how to run a government,” Christie said. “Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are not a dime’s worth of difference from how they run things. We need someone who has actually run something before and been accountable for their decisions. 

“That’s why those guys aren’t ready to be president and I am,” Christie said.

Trump’s insistence that Mexico will pay for a wall along the country’s border with the U.S. also earned a jab from Christie. The combative Garden State politician did a caricatured impersonation of the businessman’s rhetoric and manner of talking. Christie, who has met with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and traveled to that country as governor, said Trump’s comment, while entertaining, carries real-world consequences.

“It’s all really funny until you get to the details, and then it’s not so funny anymore,” he said.

According to the latest poll from the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics, Christie is currently tied for sixth place in the GOP field with 3 percent of the vote in Iowa. He is at 2.4 percent in Real Clear Politics’ average of Iowa polls. Trump holds first place with just under 29 percent in that same average; Cruz places with 24 percent, and Rubio shows with 17 percent.