CBSN

Chris Christie looks to John McCain for campaign model

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire -- There is little doubt that most of the voters in New Hampshire who have met Chris Christie like him, and more than a few who have attended his campaign events have told CBS News some variation of "I like him because he's telling it like it is," which is, in fact, his campaign message. At the Pink Cadillac Diner in Rochester Thursday, one voter leaned over to her friend seated next to her and said, "I agree with everything he's saying." And that's what he's depending on, as he barnstorms through the state trying to meet every last voter.

Over 4 1/2 days, Christie is scheduled to attend twelve events in the state - town halls, breakfasts, meet-and-greets, roundtables, a smattering of endorsement events - all part of his plan to win this primary state which is crucial to his presidential aspirations. Former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Wayne MacDonald, who is now serving as Christie's campaign chairman in the state, says Christie plans to win over the state's fickle voters one town hall meeting at a time, much as John McCain famously did in 2000 and 2008.

"We've talked to a lot of folks, and almost always they have a favorable impression of the governor, but they want to hear everybody, so there is a huge undecided factor," MacDonald said.

Christie's tell-it-like-it-is campaign is remniscent of McCain's campaign slogan/bus, the Straight Talk Express, and like McCain, he's happy to answer any question thrown at him.

At Pink Cadillac Thursday, asked about New Hampshire's drug problem (which, the questioner suggested, stemmed from gang members crossing the southern border), Christie replied, "There will always be a drug problem - with or without a secure southern border." And, he said "I've never seen a wall that was big enough or tall enough to stop a person who was determined to get over, under or around it." He suggested using drones, electronic surveillance and human border guards, as well as business measures like e-verify to ensure employers only hire legal immigrants.

On Wednesday, Christie took a brief detour from New Hampshire and headed to Maine to pick up the endorsement of Governor Paul LePage, an ally from the Republican Governors Association. Asked there about last week's Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, he said he didn't agree with it but stressed that elected officials should abide by court rulings even if they clash with their personal views.

"I vetoed the same-sex marriage bill in New Jersey," Christie told reporters in Maine during the second full-day of his now-official presidential campaign.

"But our Supreme Court voted 7-0 that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right in New Jersey. So despite my own personal feelings, I take an oath and my obligation is to enforce the law and the constitution," Christie said. "That's the oath I take and they don't make that optional for you. And so I believe folks need to enforce the law, enforce the Constitution if you've taken an oath, whether you agree with any particular law or not."

Although Christie intends to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire before primary day, even MacDonald, his New Hampshire campaign chairman disagrees with top Christie donor Ken Langone, who thinks Christie should ignore the Iowa caucuses.

"I certainly wouldn't say that Mr. Langone speaks for Christie," he said. "I think Gov. Christie respects the citizens of Iowa.

Christie has made more than a dozen trips to Iowa since last year, but some close to the campaign have whispered that he might skip the state entirely rather than trying to win the affections of a conservative electorate that may never warm to him.

Asked by CBS News if he plans on skimping on Iowa, Christie replied, "Not true. I've spent time there and I plan on spending more time there."