As Chris Christie Stands By Donald Trump, New Jersey Supporters Wonder Why The New Jersey governor and former presidential candidate faces a storm of criticism at home for his decision to endorse Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
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As Christie Stands By Trump, New Jersey Supporters Wonder Why

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As Christie Stands By Trump, New Jersey Supporters Wonder Why

As Christie Stands By Trump, New Jersey Supporters Wonder Why

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The election year rift in the Republican Party was on display for the world to see today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITT ROMNEY: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Mitt is a failed candidate. He failed. Nobody knows more about trade than me. I mean, I made so much more money than Mitt, you know, I have a store that's worth more money than Mitt. It's a store.

MCEVERS: That was one-time Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and current Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, in dueling speeches today.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is paying a political price for endorsing Donald Trump for president. Images of him standing stone-faced behind Trump on Super Tuesday went viral with jokes implying he was being held against his will. Today, Christie defended himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS CHRISTIE: I wasn't being held hostage, I wasn't upset, I wasn't angry, I wasn't despondent. I wasn't anything other than happy that we had done as well as we had done that night.

CORNISH: And at home in New Jersey, he's the most unpopular he's ever been. Seven newspapers and a number of state lawmakers want him to resign. Matt Katz covers Christie for member station WNYC, and he's the author of a book called "American Governor," which is about Christie. And, Matt, we just heard that bit from the press conference today. Jokes aside, how is Christie defending himself?

MATT KATZ, BYLINE: He said he was just standing there like he always would behind someone at a press conference, and then the Internet got a hold of it and went nuts and made fun of him. And that is a legitimate explanation. As awkward as it looked the other night to America, I've watched the guy stand behind people many times at press conferences, and I've seen that same dour expression, the eyes darting everywhere. It's just his normal resting face at press conferences.

CORNISH: And has there been a lot of speculation about what he might be getting out of a Trump endorsement?

KATZ: Yeah, well, first of all, it gets him back in the mix. We're talking about him again. Christie loves the action, the media attention. And now after dropping out of the race, he's back in the conversation. Of course, he also gets, potentially, a job in a President Trump administration. The oddsmakers are saying this week that vice president is a likely gig for him. But I think it's more likely that another powerful job like attorney general. Remember, Christie is a former federal prosecutor. That would be more likely in my estimation.

CORNISH: And what about these newspaper editorials? I mean, how serious is the effort to push Christie out of office?

KATZ: Well, there's a lot of noise about it. The newspaper editorials say they're fed up with Christie traveling around the country looking for a new job instead of taking care of New Jersey, and they said they're disgusted with him. That after making fun of Trump on the campaign trail and criticizing Trump's major positions, included the wall and the ban on Muslims - and he also had - Christie had also said he wasn't ready to be president - and the newspapers are saying now he wants to endorse him and they're fed up with him and they said he should be recalled. But it's a pretty steep battle to do that. It would require 1.4 million signatures from registered voters in New Jersey just to get a new election. And that seems like too high of a hurdle.

CORNISH: And do we know what people in New Jersey think of all this? Is this criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike?

KATZ: It is, it's from both. And, you know, the time out of state is really a big issue. He was out of state for most of 2015. His approval ratings now are down to 27 percent, a career low. Pollsters say that people think he's just not paying attention to the fiscal issues in the state and other problems. Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, has called him a desperate opportunist. A handful of legislators, republican legislators, have even called for him to resign if he's going to continue to campaign out-of-state. And that's very unusual in New Jersey for this - for there to be that kind of discord within the Republican Party.

CORNISH: That's Matt Katz of WNYC. Thanks so much for talking with us.

KATZ: Happy to be here.

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