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November 5th, 2013
12:10 PM ET

Chris Christie aims to make history in New Jersey

By CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper and Sherisse Pham

Sayreville, New Jersey (CNN) – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hopes to go where no other Garden State Republican has gone in nearly a quarter century.

Public opinion polls indicate the GOP Governor's expected to easily win re-election Tuesday in blue-state New Jersey over state Sen. Barbara Buono, his little known Democratic challenger. But Christie wants to break records.

"Christie Whitman was elected twice here and never broke 50 percent. Nobody (no Republican) since 1988 has had a 5 in front of their name in a statewide race," Christie said in an exclusive Election Day interview with CNN anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper.

Christie appeared to be referring to then Vice President George H.W. Bush, who grabbed 56% of the vote in New Jersey in his 1988 presidential election victory.

"My goal always in this race has been to at least get to 50% plus one, and anything above that is gravy and so I'll be really happy with that because that's a historical achievement - in 25 years no one has done that in New Jersey so I'll be happy with that," added Christie.  "I suspect we may do better than that."

Christie stood at 66%, 61% and 57% among likely voters in the final three public opinion polls released on the eve of the election.

In the interview, Christie touted his conservative credentials and dished out some bipartisan criticism, saying the Republican Party needs to focus on winning elections, and slamming President Barack Obama for the mixed messages on the new health care law.

"I think the party cares more about winning the argument than winning the election, and if you don't win elections you can't govern," Christie told Tapper, anchor of CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

Watch Christie: GOP needs to focus on winning here, or by clicking on the video below

As for Obama's evolving signature promise in selling the Affordable Care Act – "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," the president said in 2009 – Christie remains unimpressed.

"Don't be so cute," Christie said, adding that if Obama misunderstood how the law would operate, "just admit it to people, say you know what, 'I said it, I was wrong. I'm sorry, and we're going to try and fix it, and make it better.'"

"Don't lawyer it, people don't like lawyers," said Christie, who added that when he saw Obama trying to clarify that pledge, he thought, "That's Barack Obama the lawyer, not the leader. People want leaders, not lawyers."

The GOP governor, who's seriously considering a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, also distanced himself from his moderate label.

"I'm a conservative," Christie said. "I've governed as a conservative in this state, and I think that's led to some people disagreeing with me in our state, because it's generally a left-of-center, blue state."

"The difference has been is I haven't tried to hide it, or mask it as something different," said Christie, who brushed off allegations from conservative tea party Republicans that he is a "RINO" – a Republican in name only.

On leaks about the 2012 vice presidential vetting process

Christie said Mitt Romney called him immediately when news broke that someone had leaked details about the 2012 vice presidential vetting process.

"Mitt called me right away, and I could tell he was really embarrassed and outraged about it," Christie said.

"It's very disappointing," Christie said of the leaks. "I think it's a complete violation of trust of me and the spirit within which I entered that process."

Details in the new book about the 2012 presidential election "Double Down" make it clear that there were a number of Romney aides who came to resent Christie, both because of the way he worked with President Barack Obama after Superstorm Sandy, but also for other reasons. Stunningly, one of them leaked to the authors personal and private vetting information they acquired while considering Christie for the number two slot, including concerns regarding Christie's health and weight, and how Christie had been investigated by the Justice Department for exceeding government travel expense rates while serving as a U.S attorney in New Jersey.

The leak was a shocking breach of protocol in what is supposed to be a very discreet process.

"There's nothing in there that I have a huge problem with," said Christie. "But it is a violation of trust, and it seems it only happened to me, and not the other folks vetted, so that's a little troublesome."

We're more than halfway to my goal

Christie insists he is focused on his campaign for re-election for now, but he has taken steps to address some of the questions that might nag a presidential hopeful, like having lap band surgery to help control his weight.

Christie said the biggest difference for him has been the improvement in his sleeping.

"I didn't feel badly at my previous weight, but I didn't realize how poorly I slept until how well I've been sleeping," said Christie.  "(I) woke up a lot during the night, and just didn't get a lot of continuous sleep, and now I'm sleeping a lot better and it's really bad news for my staff because i have more energy, which they didn't think was possible."

Christie said losing weight is hard work, but "for the first time in 25 years I feel like I've got a pathway, which is really nice. Really nice not to be as frustrated as I was before."

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