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Christie: Santorum had an 'awful night' at the debate

"I don't think there was any clear, knock-out winner. I think Sen. Santorum had an awful night. He gave example last night why we don't need another legislator in the White House — you know, he's talking about 'I'm a team player, it was against my principles but I voted for it,' " Christie said on MSNBC.

The New Jersey governor said that Santorum's comments about No Child Left Behind — in which he defended supporting the legislation because it was a top priority of President Bush — underscored an untenable compromise.

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"The art of compromising is understanding you can't get everything you want, but not compromising your principles ... you can't compromise your principles because people won't know who you are," Christie said.

In an interview later on Fox News, Christie suggested Santorum was not "ready to feel the heat" of being a front-runner.

But Christie acknowledged that Santorum was a threat to Mitt Romney in his home state of Michigan — although he argued an upset victory for the former senator would not deal a devastating blow to Romney.

"Is it bad news? Yes. Is he in trouble? No. Because everything's comparative. Who's beating him, in that group?" Christie said on MSNBC.

Still, Christie said Santorum could contend for the presidency if he emerged as the eventual GOP nominee — all while maintaining Romney would have an easier path.

"If gas goes to $6 a gallon, if the economy turns back down and we start losing jobs again, you tell me he's not electable," Christie said.

Chrisite went on to insist that he was "100 percent behind Mitt Romney" and dismiss speculation that he might emerge from a brokered convention.

The New Jersey governor also defended his recent veto of legislation that would have allowed gay marriage in the state, calling criticism from the left "hypocrisy" since President Obama shares his position on the issue.

"My feet are firmly planted right next to Barack Obama ... He applauds other people's courage but doesn't have any of his own," Christie said.

He also doubled down on criticism of the president's energy and tax priorities during his interview with Fox, signaling out White House spokesman Jay Carney. Christie objected to Carney for dismissing the governor's argument that billionaire investor Warren Buffett should just write a check to the federal government during Wednesday's press briefing, but refusing to refer to Christie by name.

"They think that if they mention me by name, people may know who I am," Chrisitie joked.

Christie also accused the president of "catering to extremists" in putting a hold on the Keystone XL pipeline.

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