SANDOWN, New Hampshire -- Chris Christie touched down in New Hampshire on Tuesday as an official presidential candidate to strains of Bon Jovi, eager to launch his do-or-die push in the Granite State after announcing his candidacy earlier in the day in his home state of New Jersey.
"I want to be the next president of the United States and I intend to win this election," Christie told the packed town hall audience in Sandown, with his wife and four children sitting at his side.
Christie riffed on his campaign slogan -- "Telling It Like It Is" -- and declared that he has no interest in "being a pretend president of the United States."
"The only way I want to be president is if I get to be me and you get to be you," Christie said. He joked that if voters don't like him, "goodness you have 13 other candidates to pick from!"
The 52-year-old governor emphasized his executive experience as much as his communication style, which went over well with the live-free-or-die voters in the room.
After laying out his platform on education reform, foreign policy, economic recovery and entitlement reform in an off-the-cuff stump speech, a perspiring Christie took his suit jacket off and dove straight into a Q&A session with voters, punctuating some of his answer with an occasional "you might not like what you hear" disclaimer.
On the question of how he would defeat the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in a general-election matchup, he cited his 2013 gubernatorial re-election victory in New Jersey against Democratic State Sen. Barbara Buono.
"I ran against a female opponent, and I not only beat her - I beat her good," he said. "And if I'm the nominee of the Republican party for president in November of 2016, I'm not only going to beat her, I'm going to beat her fair and square and take this country back."
The Governor avoided attacking the other baker's dozen of Republicans running for president, with the exception of Rand Paul, whom he called out by name throughout the evening, criticizing his support of a bill scaling back the Patriot Act.
"I can promise you, you can do it in a way that protects your civil liberties and protects the homeland at the same time, you just have to have the smarts and guts to do it," he said. "Sen. Paul has made this country less safe, and if I become president we are going to protect the homeland now lower our defense against them," he said.
Christie is on a four-day swing through New Hampshire, banking on his formidable skill in retail politics to change the lingering perceptions about him that were largely brought about by the Bridgegatescandal. The last two CBS News-New York Times polls show that in the Republican field, Christie, whose popularity soared when he considered a presidential run in 2012, now has the highest percentage of Republicans who say they would not consider voting for him: 42 percent.
The newly-declared candidate is now banking on retail strategy in the one of the only early primary states in which true retail politics is still possible. He will go on a succession of town halls and town meetings, shake the hands of every voter in reach, trying to win every vote he can because he's convinced that once he's in the room, he's got a shot at winning their votes. Brenda Merrill, who was the first woman in line for the town hall in Sandown, might be one of those votes. She entered the day not knowing much about Christie beyond the controversies surrounding him.
"I learned that he is more than the controversial things he said, he's approachable, he's real, and I think that he has a really good handle on what American people need," Merrill said.