Chris Christie on Debate: 'Entire Narrative of This Race Will Change'

Nancy Cook
National Journal

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie played up the expectations for Mitt Romney’s Wednesday debate performance on NBC’s Meet the Press, on the same day that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan tried to temper them.

“Come Thursday morning, the entire narrative of this race will change,” Christie said, bucking both Ryan and others like Sen. John McCain, who have said that the debate is just one more event in the campaign and unlikely to provide a game-changing moment.

When asked about President Obama’s growing lead in the polls in battleground states, Christie argued that the lead could just as easily be reversed in the coming weeks. “I’m here to tell you that it can happen very quickly the other way. It can happen Wednesday night,” he said. “Wednesday night is the restart of this campaign.”

Christie argued that the debate will mark the first time that “tens of millions of people” will be tuning into this race for the first time, which will offer them a chance to compare the two candidates side-by-side. Romney, he argued, does a great job of laying out his vision for the future (even though both Christie and Ryan ducked several questions on the Sunday shows about the specifics of Romney’s tax and deficit reduction plans).

Over the next five weeks, Christie predicted the race would tighten. His appearance came just one hour after Ryan appeared on Fox News Sunday and tried to dampen the expectations for Romney’s first debate against the president.

“Look, President Obama is a very … gifted speaker,” Ryan said. “The man's been on the national stage for many years, he's an experienced debater, he's done these kinds of debates before. This is Mitt's first time on this kind of a stage.”

The Obama campaign responded by rebuking Christie on several fronts. As to the governor's claim that the president "doesn't say" how he would create 1 million manufacturing jobs or reduce the deficit by $4 trillion, spokeswoman Lis Smith provided details and added, "It’s time for Mitt Romney to do the same and tell the American people what he will do."

Smith also took issue with Christie's assertion that Romney “is not talking about more tax cuts for the wealthy.” She said, "That statement contradicts months of comments from Romney when he said that he would cut taxes for every American, including the top 1 percent -- and it contradicts the basic math of his plan."

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