South River, New Jersey (CNN) – Gov. Chris Christie ignored a loud ensemble of hecklers at a town hall Tuesday, but didn't hold back when a health care insurance advocate confronted the New Jersey Republican and accused him of not doing enough to get coverage for Garden State residents.
At his 114th town hall since becoming governor in 2009, Christie was also asked if he perceives himself as a moderate or a conservative–a poignant question that Christie will inevitably face if he decides to run for president in 2016.
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'New Jersey deserves better!'
After facing a handful of protesters at last week's town hall, Christie warned the audience at the top of the event in South River, New Jersey that they may see another round of heckling Tuesday.
He named Communication Workers of America, the state workers union, as the group behind what he called a "new and recent phenomenon" of shouting at the governor when an audience member tries to ask a question.
Christie normally lays out four rules for the audience before each town hall, but added Tuesday an "addendum," saying if a person is interrupted by a heckler, that person should wait to ask his or her question until the protester is escorted out.
Sure enough, after Christie answered about four queries, more than a dozen people stood up and used the familiar Occupy Wall Street "mic check" tactic that involves chanting and repetition.
"We are here to demand that you stop your corrupt uses of Hurricane Sandy money," they shouted. "There are still families without homes who have received no aide."
As police escorted them out without incident, they repeated: "New Jersey deserves better!"
A few people continued to stand, wearing white t-shirts with anti-Christie slogans.
Christie stayed silent as the scene unfolded. After the protesters left, he weighed in: "Well congratulations you have now seen the latest gift given to you by the public sector unions in the state of New Jersey."
"Told you it was going to happen," he jokingly added. "I am a soothsayer."
A heated confrontation
Later on at the town hall, a woman who said she represented the New Jersey for Health Care Coalition petitioned the governor to work with her organization to connect more people to health care insurance. The attempts she's made so far have only been met with "silence" from his administration," she said.
The governor, talking about his decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, fired back: "Is that silence?"
As she continued to lay out her concerns, he repeatedly accused her of being wrong, and they talked over each other as the argument escalated into a four-minute battle.
He argued that the administration is spending more money on Medicaid than it ever has, but he was not in favor of adopting other measures from the Affordable Care Act.
She fired back: "We need to do other things–it's not a cure-all." She said the administration needs to increase its staff and resources to better advertise health care insurance options.
Christie was one of a handful of Republican governors who accepted the optional Medicaid expansion, which allows more people to qualify for the program, but his administration did not accept a $7.6 million grant from the government to help with consumer outreach on the federal health care program.
"I'm sorry that you favor Obamacare, and I do not," an agitated Christie said. "I'm sorry that's just the way it goes."
While the confrontation clearly got under Christie's skin, his reaction was a departure from the past, when Christie would have cut someone like her off much sooner and told her to sit down.
However, he got close.
"I don't know how many times you can stand up there and give a speech and be wrong and continue to keep the microphone in your hands," he told her.
A human Rorschach test?
Emery Spirko of South River, New Jersey, had a different question on his mind. He wanted to know whether the Republican governor considers himself moderate or conservative.
"That's the beauty of me," Christie responded. "Everybody looks at me and sees something different."
He added that he considers himself a "common sense conservative," saying he believes in smaller government and lower taxes. "To me, that's a conservative. But everybody perceives 'conservative' as something different these days."
As Christie bolsters his national reputation and potentially prepares for a presidential bid, he's found himself at odds with some in his party-in particular libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul-over government spending and national security.
The GOP family feud has been a major story line since the emergence of the tea party after the 2008 presidential election and one that Christie will have to navigate if he decides to court voters in the Republican presidential primaries.
In what appeared to be a swipe against some tea party-backed lawmakers, Christie said he's not the kind of conservative who is "unwilling to compromise," arguing that the GOP ideological divide in Washington prevents people from working together.
Because he works with Democrats and has to compromise at times, he said he's labeled a moderate by some people.
"Whatever you see me as, most of the time, is OK with me. I know who I am," he said. "I'm a conservative that believes in a smaller, smarter, less expensive government...Some people call that conservative, some people call it moderate–I don't know. And quite frankly, I got to tell you the truth, I don't care."
"In the end, what matters most to me is: Am I effective or am I not?"
Spirko, the man who asked the question, later told CNN he didn't expect Christie to respond but he was satisfied with the answer.
"I was happy with it," he said. "There are times I look at him as a conservative and there are times I look at him as a moderate. "