Gov. Chris Christie went on full attack-dog mode this morning, calling Newt Gingrich an “embarrassment to his party” on national television and playing down the former House speaker’s decisive victory in the South Carolina primary Saturday over Mitt Romney.
“I’m not talking about character, I’m talking about how you conducted yourself in office,” Christie said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “Newt Gingrich has embarrassed the party over time — whether he’ll do it again in the future I don’t know.”
Christie, who declined to run for the presidency in October despite a tidal wave of encouragement, has since become a top Romney surrogate on the campaign trail, traveling to early-voting states and making the rounds on television for the former Massachusetts governor.
After a rocky start to his campaign, Gingrich won over 40 percent of South Carolina’s Republican primary voters — some of the most conservative in the country — to Romney’s 28 percent.
“It’s clearly disappointing,” Christie said. “We had a bad week as a campaign and a bad result last night.” But the governor said Romney would still be the nominee, and that Florida, the next state to vote, could put momentum behind him again.
Only Romney has the business experience and governing chops to repair the U.S. economy, Christie said.
“Look at places like Staples and Sports Authority,” he said, referencing Romney’s work at Bain Capital. “Everybody who goes to work at those places today has Mitt Romney to thank. … That’s his greatest contribution to the conservative movement, to show that the American free-enterprise system does work.”
By contrast, Christie recapped a list of “liabilities” he said would hurt the Republican Party if Gingrich became the nominee.
He said the former speaker used his influence in Washington to earn $1.6 million advising mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and now dresses it up on the campaign trail as something different.
Christie also pointed out that Gingrich was ousted as speaker by his own majority, and accrued a mountain of ethics violations that costing more than $300,000 in fines.
“Sometimes past is prologue,” Christie said.
Still, he said, Gingrich could beat President Obama in November.
“You don’t sound very convincing,” said host David Gregory.
“I answered your question,” Christie retorted. “Sure.”
When the conversation turned to the vice-presidential nomination, Christie again said it was unlikely he would join Romney’s ticket, without fully closing the door.
“I don’t know that I’m the guy to stand three feet behind someone and nod my head,” Christie said. “(But) I love my country enough and I love my party enough to listen.”