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Christie Says Obama ’Using’ Buffett

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said President Barack Obama is “using” such people as billionaire investor Warren Buffett as tools to push his tax policy.

Christie, who has endorsed Mitt Romney for president, also said during a round of television interviews today that the former Massachusetts governor needs to show more emotion if he is to win the Republican primary.

Christie’s comments about Obama came after he said this week that Buffett, who has called for the nation’s wealthiest people to pay more taxes, should “just write a check and shut up.” Buffett, chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has said he pays 17.4 percent on taxable income. His secretary, Debbie Bosanek, and other staff members pay an average 34 percent rate.

“You’re using this guy, you’re using his secretary --who’s one of the best-paid secretaries in America, apparently --you’re using these people to try to make a point about redistribution of wealth,” Christie, 49, a Republican midway through his first term, said during an interview on “Fox & Friends”.

Obama has called for a minimum rate of 30 percent for those with incomes of $1 million or more and dubbed the idea “the Buffett Rule.” The president has pointed to the different rates of Buffett and his secretary as an example of an unfair tax code, and Bosanek was at his State of the Union address last month. Recent presidents have often had guests at their speeches to make policy points.

Buffett Rule

Carrie Kizer, Buffett’s assistant, didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment on Christie’s statements.

Warren Buffett is widely respected and he is simply expressing his view that a billionaire like him should not pay a lower effective tax rate than his secretary,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in Miami, where Obama is giving a speech about energy and raising campaign funds. “I guess Governor Christie disagrees with that.”

Christie on Feb. 21 introduced a $32.1 billion spending plan that includes a 10 percent income-tax cut for every New Jersey resident, business-tax reductions and a $1.1 billion pension contribution, the biggest in state history.

Michigan Primary

During today’s media appearances, Christie was asked mostly about national political issues. He said a loss for Romney in Michigan’s Feb. 28 Republican primary would be “bad news” though the candidate wouldn’t be in trouble. Romney’s father was a Michigan governor and chairman of now-defunct American Motors Corp., and his son has criticized the federal bailout of the auto industry, crucial to that state’s economy.

There was no “knockout winner” in the Republican debate last night in Arizona, Christie said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. Rick Santorum wasn’t prepared and turned in an “awful” performance, he said.

Romney’s “reserved” nature is not playing well with voters, and he must show his emotions and passion in order to win the primary, Christie told Don Imus.

There is about a 10 percent chance of a brokered Republican nominating convention, said Christie, who added that he was certain the nominee would be Romney. The term refers to a selection process where no clear majority candidate emerges after an initial delegation vote, and the nomination is the result of deals among party leaders.

Christie last year turned down entreaties from party leaders and donors to enter the Republican presidential primary race. He is the top choice of Republicans if the party nominates its presidential candidate at a brokered convention, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday.

The governor, asked by Imus what he would do if leaders pass on Romney, said he would have “some thinking to do.”

“I don’t have an idea at the moment,” Christie said. “Listen, if it gets to that point, you know me. I’m not a wallflower. I’ll take a position, but I don’t have one now.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Elise Young in Trenton at eyoung30@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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