An hour into the first Republican presidential debate of 2016, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was asked how his policies on gun control in New Jersey differ from those of President Barack Obama — giving the governor an opening for what might of been his best moment of the night.

Christie, polling in fifth place heading into the Charleston, S.C. debate Thursday, defended his positions as pro-Second Amendment — and said the president wants to do things without working with Congress, and without getting the consent of the American people. He said that's not a democracy.

It’s a dictatorship, Christie said.

“This guy is a petulant child. That's what he is. I hope the president is watching tonight because here's what I'd like to tell him. Mr. President, we're not against you, we're against your policies,” said Christie. “The American people have rejected your agenda and now you're trying to go around it. That's not right. It's not constitutional, and we are going to kick your rear end out of the White House come this fall.”

The first engagement between Christie and another candidate came when Marco Rubio accused him of writing a check to Planned Parenthood, supporting Common Core, supporting gun control and backing other policy positions favored by Obama. Christie denied writing the check, described his record on guns, and said Common Core had been "eliminated" in New Jersey.

“When you’re a senator what you get to do is just talk and talk and talk, and you talk so much that nobody can ever keep up with what you’re saying is accurate or not,” Christie said. “When you’re a governor, you’re held accountable for everything you do.”

To that end: It's not entirely true that Common Core has been eliminated in New Jersey.

Christie had originally backed the Common Core standards New Jersey adopted five years ago, saying in 2013 Republicans opposed to it were having a "knee-jerk" reaction to the standards. Christie then came out against the standards last year, asking a state committee to review them and suggest changes. That committee on Monday recommended keeping nearly 85 percent of the current standards, though it says the ones it would change could make a substantial difference.

The state is also planning to continue giving students the Common Core-aligned PARCC tests, and to eventually make passing Algebra 1 and 10th-grade English PARCC tests mandatory to graduate. During the November edition of New Jersey 101.5's Ask The Governor, Christie said the controversial PARCC tests needed changes, but were still "more accurate than what we had before" when it came to assessing schools' performance.

The state Department of Education has proposed renaming the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards, as well as the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts, to the "New Jersey Student Learning Standards."

In the debate, Christie then took the high road, kind of. He also used the tail end of complimentary words about Rubio to take at shot at a former first lady who happens to be the Democrat many people feel will be her party’s presidential nominee.

“I like Marco Rubio. He’s a good guy. He’s a smart guy and he would be a heck of a lot better president than Hillary Rodham Clinton would ever be,” the governor declared.

Every candidate was given the chance to give his or her position on immigration.

“I said right from the beginning that we should take no Syrian refugees of any kind,” the governor said. “You can’t just ban all Muslims. You have to ban radical Islamic jihadists. You have to ban the people who are trying to hurt us. If I’m president we’ll make our intelligence community strong and we won’t have to keep everybody out. We’re just going to keep the bad folks out and make sure they don’t harm us.”

The first question shot Christie’s way focused on when he would use military force if he were to become president. He said he would first make sure to speak with America’s allies to let them know where he stood and that he would always keep his word. He also had thoughts on dealing with enemies.

“Lots of people will say lots of different things about me in this campaign and others, but the one thing they’ve never said about me is that I’m misunderstood,” Christie said. “We have to talk to our adversaries and we have to make sure they understand the limits of our patience. ... Military action would be used when it was absolutely necessary to protect American lives and protect American interests around the world. We are not the world’s policemen, but we need to stand up and be ready.”

America’s transportation infrastructure could be fixed by reworking business tax codes and would get the jobs done without having to raise taxes, the governor said.

Oddly, Christie and Donald Trump never engaged one-on-one.

In closing statement, Christie said he would stand up for the people of America and against special interests.

Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at kevin.mcardle@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.

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