Chris Christie Still Likes Donald Trump, Despite Comments on Immigrants

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey appeared in New Hampshire last month.

At a time when many Republicans are racing to distance themselves from Donald J. Trump, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is forging an unusual path: He’s taking pains to emphasize that, although he found Mr. Trump’s comments on illegal immigrants “inappropriate,” the real estate baron is a “friend,” the two are “close” and Mr. Trump is “a good guy.”

The tactic — a hate-the-sin, love-the-sinner approach to politics — is striking because Mr. Christie has long prided himself on the depth of his support from Latinos, who reacted with anger and dismay to Mr. Trump’s assertion thatMexicans sneaking across the border are rapists and criminals.

To be sure, Mr. Christie denounced Mr. Trump’s caustic words on immigrants on Mr. Christie’s second day as an official candidate for president, saying at a campaign event in Nashua, N.H., that “the comments were inappropriate and have no place in this race.”

But as for the man himself? Here’s a few of the nicer things Mr. Christie has had to say about Mr. Trump:

On July 1: Mr. Christie told Sean Hannity of Fox News that the first thing that came to mind when he heard Mr. Trump’s name was “a friend.”

On July 3: “I like Donald. He’s a good guy.”

On July 6: “He tries to provoke reaction, that’s part of who Donald is.” Mr. Christie also added that Mr. Trump is a “good friend.”

And Monday morning, on “Fox and Friends,” Mr. Christie said he had had enough with the Trump questions. “Donald is a friend, I’ve known him for 13 years, and I like him personally.”

He added: “But his comments were inappropriate. That’s now the 50th time I’ve said it. It’s going to be the last time I say it.”

The two have indeed been friends for a while. But Mr. Christie’s frequent pledges of friendship could be a curious and potentially treacherous path.

The governor has made outreach to the Latino community a centerpiece of both his record and his campaign: He won over 50 percent of the Latino vote in his re-election, a fact he regularly points out on the campaign trail, and he took a three-day trip to Mexico in September.

And the proposals that he has outlined on immigration and boarder security – that a fence along the southern border is ineffective and sends the wrong message – run in direct contrast to Mr. Trump’s promise to build as grand and imposing a border fence as humanly possible.

But perhaps those disagreements are best worked out among friends.

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