Chris Christie, a fighter from Jersey

(CBS News) He's a politician made in New Jersey, without a doubt. He's Republican Governor Chris Christie. Tracy Smith tracked him down for some Questions-and-Answers:


Watch Chris Christie work the crowds at the Jersey shore, and he may look like your typical glad-handing politician. But the New Jersey governor would be the first to tell you -- proudly -- there's nothing typical about him.

"I'll tell you what I think most American politicians sound like -- and more important, what I think what citizens think, remember Charlie Brown's teacher? Wah, wah, wah, wah. It all sounds the same, and you can't really understand what it is? No one says that about me. Nobody says that about me."

And if they did, he probably wouldn't let them get away with it.

As the Republican governor of a heavily-Democratic state, he can be abrasive. He seldom minces words, or spares feelings. Words he has used to describe people include "idiot," "stupid," "jerk," and "crazy."

"Are these words that a person in your position, a leadership position, should be using?" asked Smith.

"Sure," Christie replied. "Absolutely."

" 'Idiot' ?"

"Sure. Someone's an idiot, they're an idiot!" he laughed.

"Are you a bully?" Smith asked.

"No, no. I'm not a bully. But what I am is a fighter."

"What is the difference?"

"I think a bully is abusive. And a fighter is somebody who's willing to mix it up to defend his or her point of view."

Most Americans first got a glimpse that fighting spirit last fall, when Superstorm Sandy battered New Jersey, causing $30 billion in damage to its prized tourism asset: the shore.

Christie comforted residents who'd lost loved ones and homes, and later railed against Congress when relief money didn't come fast enough.

"What do you think Sandy did for your image?" asked Smith.

"Well, I think that it broadened it a little bit to show something that was always there but that people didn't have the opportunity to see before."

Which was what? "Uh, compassion," he replied.

Of course, some people in his party didn't like seeing the warm reception the governor gave President Obama in the days leading up to the 2012 presidential election. Christie had endorsed fellow Republican Mitt Romney, but he embraced Democratic President Obama.

But he disagrees that the embrace helped Mr. Obama win the election.

"A little bit?" Smith asked.

"No."

"There must have been people nudging and saying, 'Don't be nice to him,' " Smith suggested.

"Sure. 'Nudging' is a nice way of putting it, you know? They were badgering me, and I, quite frankly, you know, was tired of it.

"What I said to people is, 'We're pulling dead bodies out of homes still, and if you think that what I'm concerned about is politics, you can forget it."

Right now, Christie's fighting for re-election in November. He's ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono by more than 30 points, and has a 66-percent approval rating -- even though polls find most New Jerseyans disapprove of Christie's handling of some key issues, like same-sex marriage.

"You do not believe in same-sex marriage?" Smith asked.

"I do not," Christie said. "But what I will tell you is that I understand that good people of good will have a difference of opinion on this. And so my view on it is, put it on the ballot. Let the people decide."

On Friday, a judge ruled that New Jersey must allow same-sex marriage. Christie vowed to appeal.

And at a campaign stop in the City of Orange this past week, he was greeted by protesters jeering him about his veto of a minimum wage bill.

Still, to Christie, conflict is a comfort zone.

Chris Christie was born in Newark, though his parents moved away because of the failing schools. His mom was Sicilian . . . and a democrat. His dad is Irish . . . and a Republican.

"They argued openly, loudly in our house between each other, with us," Christie recalled. "It was the atmosphere in the home. And so when you see your role models feel passionately about the things they believe in, you emulate them."

The four-story walkup where he lived is now a vacant lot. But Christie's memories are clear, especially of his mother Sondra, who died nine years ago.

The outspoken governor gets emotional talking about her influence. "Her presence seems so large in your life," Smith said.

"Oh yeah. She is today, still, the most dominant force in my life, still. Coming back to places like this, you know, with you is -- you know, makes me feel her presence even more, even more."

Christie met Mary Pat Foster, the other female force in his life, in college. Both Catholics, they married in 1986 and have four kids.

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