Back in the pack, this is not the campaign Chris Christie envisioned

Christie said he’s long believed that his real competition is with Bush and with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “I think Jeb for obvious reasons, because of his name and his money,” he explained. “And I think Marco because I think he’s very talented. He’s a very talented communicator and politician.”

But he sees Bush as a candidate who has more than once had to say, “What I really meant was,” or “No, no, I misspoke.” He said Bush isn’t the only candidate who’s done that, but “he’s certainly had the most.” He added, “Talent is what will matter, more than money, more than a name.”

He has high personal regard for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “He’s a good friend, and I like him a great deal,” he said. “I think in the long run, amongst the governors, I’ll end up being the choice. But it’s nothing against John.”

Looking at the most conservative side of the GOP field, Christie praised two candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. “I think Ted Cruz is a strong candidate,” he said. “He’s bright and talented. And I think Mike Huckabee is talented and shouldn’t be underestimated.”

I asked Christie where he thought he would be were it not for his administration’s scandal over the George Washington Bridge — though he has never been implicated directly into what happened.

“I have no idea, but it certainly didn’t help,” he said. “I think I’d be better off than I am now, but I don’t know.”