Gov. Chris Christie took questions on a range of topics Thursday at a Statehouse news conference, where he nominated a Democrat to run the state's transportation department and railed against the legislative investigation into the shutdown of lanes near the George Washington Bridge last year.
He followed up with an hour-long appearance in the evening on New Jersey 101.5 FM's "Ask the Governor" call-in show, where he praised NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as "an outstanding man" with "great integrity." He also said he expects to roll out his plan for another round of pension and health benefit cuts sometime in October, after a taskforce he has appointed presents its recommendations.
Among the issues he tackled Thursday:
— He said he'd welcome a return by Donald Trump to Atlantic City. Trump said this week that he'll be taking "a very serious look" at buying back Trump Entertainment Resorts after it declared bankruptcy, closed Trump Plaza, and threatened to close the Trump Taj Mahal. Later, Christie took issue with the way the recent spate of casino closures has been portrayed. "The demise of Atlantic City is significantly overplayed," he said.
— He said the state should revisit making the lieutenant governor serve as acting governor when he is out of state, saying he still is in charge when he travels — as he has often lately in his duties as chair of the Republican Governors Association. "It's not like I'm incommunicado," he said. "It's not like I need someone to get the Pony Express to bring me a message."
— He said his experiences traveling for the RGA would be a factor as he decides whether to run for president in 2016: "It gives me a window — just a window — into what that would be like and it gives my family a window into what that would be like."
— He said national Republicans are missing an opportunity by not getting more involved in Republican Jeff Bell's U.S. Senate campaign, noting polls have shown he is trailing Democratic incumbent Cory Booker by a smaller margin than many had expected.
— He said that, as he travels the country, he feels a deep dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama that is hurting Democratic candidates at every level. The president "is seen as more of a liability for his party at the moment than as an asset," said Christie, while noting that he continues to get requests for help.
— He criticized media coverage exploring possible conflicts of interest because the chairman of the State Investment Council, which oversees decisions on pension-fund investments, also volunteered for his campaign. Last week, the state AFL-CIO filed an ethics complaint on the subject. "One website pops something and you run around chasing it like lemmings," he told reporters. "Get your facts right and then you'll have something to write about."