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Obama calls out New Jersey Governor Christie in fight for minimum wage hike

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to residents during the 110th Town Hall Meeting in Middletown Township, New Jersey, February 20, 2
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to residents during the 110th Town Hall Meeting in Middletown Township, New Jersey, February 20, 2

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday singled out New Jersey's embattled Republican Governor Chris Christie for criticism for balking at a push to raise the minimum wage, a move favored by most Americans.

During a meeting with top advisors and a group of 14 Democratic governors at the White House, Obama said Republican governors were out of touch with their constituents on the issue.

"For example, in New Jersey, even though the Republican governor opposed it, it passed by 60 percent," he said, referring to Christie's veto on a state wage hike that later became a ballot initiative approved by voters.

Obama wants to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from the current $7.25. Polls show three quarters of Americans favor the plan.

The proposal has little chance of approval by Congress. The Congressional Budget Office said it would lead to the loss of about half a million jobs by late 2016, even as it lifts almost a million people out of poverty.

The meeting on Friday focused on state initiatives to raise the minimum wage. Obama made a similar jab at Christie, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, during a dinner on Thursday with the Democratic governors.

"Governor Christie opposed it; it got 60 percent of the vote -- because voters understood this is the right thing to do, and it will be good for the economy, not bad for the economy," he said.

Christie's national political ambitions have been threatened recently by the disclosure of his aides' roles in the New Jersey lane closures for the George Washington Bridge, which caused days of traffic in the town of Fort Lee. Emails show that his staff closed the lanes in September after Fort Lee's Democratic mayor declined to support Christie's re-election bid last year.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton)

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