By Maddie Hanna
A day after his appearance in the third GOP presidential debate in Colorado, Gov. Christie took a break from the campaign trail Thursday to mark the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy on his home turf.
But he didn't linger, departing right after giving remarks in the warehouse of a moving company that had flooded in Moonachie - a Bergen County borough hit by the storm - and taking no questions from reporters.
He was due Friday in Iowa, continuing a campaign that the New York Times editorial board belittled Thursday as "nothing more than a vanity project," urging the low-polling governor to end his bid and attend to a state "in trouble."
Christie was quick to fire back, tweeting at the newspaper that he couldn't read the editorial - titled "Gov. Christie, Time to Go Home" - because "I don't have a subscription." (The Times responded by sending him a link to subscribe.)
"But I can tell you this - I am not going anywhere," the governor wrote.
Picking up on a bash-the-media theme from Wednesday night's CNBC debate, Christie's campaign also sent out a fund-raising email linking to the editorial.
"The New York Times is at it again," the email read. "Republicans need someone tough enough, strong enough, and tested enough to stand up to the repeated attacks of the mainstream media and take on Hillary Clinton next fall."
At the news event in Moonachie, Christie kept the focus on Sandy, reflecting on the storm's devastation, praising the resilience of small-business owners he had met, and again acknowledging flaws in a rebuilding process that has drawn criticism.
A majority of the state's hardest-hit residents remain more dissatisfied than satisfied with the recovery effort, according to a Monmouth University poll released this week. Thirty-nine percent of those residents were satisfied; of residents still out of their homes, 29 percent were satisfied.
State officials said Thursday that of the more than 8,000 Sandy-affected homeowners active in the main rebuilding program, more than 7,600 have received at least one payment to rebuild or elevate their homes. Of that group, 2,000 have finished construction.
"None of it ever claimed to be perfect, nor will it ever finish perfectly," Christie said. He was flanked by business owners inside the warehouse of Booth Movers, a calmer setting than last year's Sandy anniversary event at the Jersey Shore, which got splashed across the national news after Christie admonished a protester in Belmar to "sit down and shut up."
Christie pledged to see the rebuilding process through, saying Sandy was "the major reason that I ran for reelection in 2013."
"We will finish that job in the time I'm governor," he said.
While his national poll numbers have been stuck in the low single digits, Christie may be able to capitalize on what was seen as a poor debate performance by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said Patrick Murray, a political analyst at Monmouth University.
When Bush "walked right into a vacuous question" on whether the federal government should regulate fantasy football, Christie was able to call out both the moderators and his Republican rival, Murray said.
The moment - with an incredulous Christie asking, "We've got ISIS and al-Qaeda attacking us, and we're talking about fantasy football?" - earned the New Jersey governor some of the biggest applause of the night.
Bush's stumbles "opened the door for Chris Christie to be the guy battling Marco Rubio" for the support of so-called establishment Republicans, Murray said.
But "one debate does not make a campaign," Murray said, noting Bush's fund-raising advantage. At the end of the third quarter, Bush's campaign had $10.3 million cash on hand, compared with Christie's $1.4 million.
Christie will also have to register high enough in the polls to compete in the next GOP debate, Nov. 10 in Milwaukee.
To qualify for the main stage, candidates must average at least 2.5 percent support in the four most recent national polls conducted through Nov. 4 and recognized by Fox Business Network.
Christie averaged 2 percent in the last four national polls, as compiled by Real Clear Politics. New polls, however, will be released before Nov. 4, and he may get a debate boost, Murray said. "That might be enough to bump him up over that all-important 2.5 percent threshold."