A Moe’s Southwest Grill in downtown Charleston was briefly the focal point of South Carolina politics Tuesday afternoon, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made a campaign stop during a whirlwind Carolina tour.
Christie was officially campaigning with Gov. Nikki Haley, who is seeking a second term in November. But the attention was on the northeast Republican and whether or not his trip to the Southeast is laying the groundwork for a future presidential run in 2016. Many Republicans had asked him to seek the office in 2012, but Christie instead decided to finish the rest of his first term as governor.
Christie himself was mum on any presidential plans, but his South Carolina itinerary on Tuesday also included a pair of fundraisers with Haley in Charleston and another on Kiawah Island. It’s part of several national appearances for the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association this week. He had been in North Carolina on Tuesday morning campaigning for a Senate candidate there. He will travel to New Hampshire on Wednesday for appearances with a pair of GOP candidates.
“I’ll be out of state for, I think it’s 29 of the next 49 days,” he told reporters at Moe’s. “So I’ll be pretty busy.”
Democrats seized on the visit to note that Christie had supported expanding Medicaid eligibility in New Jersey under the Affordable Care Act, which Haley and other South Carolina Republicans oppose.
“It’s no wonder that Chris Christie is here campaigning for Nikki Haley considering she has sent millions of hard-earned tax dollars to New Jersey just so she can pursue her political career,” Democratic opponent State Sen. Vincent Sheheen said in an emailed statement. “We should be expanding Medicaid here in South Carolina and putting our tax dollars to work at home to create 44,000 jobs, help hundreds of thousands of working South Carolinians, and pay our own doctors and nurses and hospitals. South Carolina has had it with this kind of dishonest and ideological leadership — they are ready for a governor they can trust.”
During Tuesday’s stop, Haley insisted the disagreement in policy is a good thing for Republicans.
“You don’t treat all states the same,” she told reporters. “We did what was right for South Carolina and he did what was right for New Jersey. And at the end of the day you could see it’s two states that are doing very well.”
Christie immediately seconded her opinion. “That’s the strength of Republican governors. We support each other because we believe our jobs are to serve the people of our states, not have some monolithic policy that comes out of Washington, D.C.”
Haley and Sheheen will face independent Tom Ervin, Libertarian Steve French, and United Citizens Party candidate Morgan Bruce Reeves in November.
Jay Harper contributed to this report