Christie raps potential 2016 rivals at Republican confab
August 15th, 2013
03:09 PM ET
12 months ago

Christie raps potential 2016 rivals at Republican confab

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET on 8/15

Boston (CNN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie planted himself firmly in the Republican Party’s establishment wing Thursday with a pugnacious speech calling on his party to focus on pragmatism rather than ideology and crippling internal debates.

"We are not a debating society,” Christie told a lunchtime audience at the Republican National Committees summer meeting in Boston. “We are a political operation that needs to win."

Some of Christie’s remarks, relayed to a reporter by GOP officials who attended the closed-press event, were interpreted by many here as another jab at Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a potential rival for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Christie and Paul tangled earlier this summer after the New Jersey governor criticized Paul’s libertarian-tinged worldview as “esoteric” and “intellectual,” drawing a series of pointed rebukes from Paul and his allies.

“I am in this business to win. I don’t know why you are in it. I am in this to win,” Christie said at the luncheon, his first appearance a meeting of the RNC.

“I think we have some folks who believe that our job is to be college professors,” he said. “Now college professors are fine I guess. Being a college professor, they basically spout out ideas that nobody does anything about. For our ideas to matter we have to win. Because if we don’t win, we don’t govern. And if we don’t govern all we do is shout to the wind. And so I am going to do anything I need to do to win.”

Rand Paul adviser jabs 'content-free' Christie

Christie also appeared to rap Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another potential White House hopeful who made headlines in January when he implored the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.”

"I'm not going to be one of these people who goes around and calls our party stupid,” Christie said, a startling remark given that Jindal and Christie work hand-in-hand as chairman and vice-chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

“We need to stop navel gazing," he added. "There's nothing wrong with our principles. We need to focus on winning again. There's too much at stake for this to be an academic exercise. We need to win and govern with authority and courage."

Another Paul takes on Chris Christie

President Obama and Congressional torpor merited barely a mention in his remarks. Christie devoted the much of the speech to his record in New Jersey, highlighting efforts to fix a budget deficit and his noisy fights with teachers unions over pension reform.

“You got two choices as a governor,” he said. “You either sidle up next to them and whisper sweet nothings in their ear or try to hope they don't punch you. Or your second alternative is you punch them first.”

By most accounts, Christie’s remarks were met with enthusiasm by the nearly 200 state GOP chairmen, staffers and party insiders who attend these quarterly meetings to plot election strategy and hunt for business.

“It was really great,” said Indiana committeeman Jim Bopp. “Successful politics is a matter of heeding your principles, implementing them, but also being pragmatic about what you can accomplish and need to win. You can’t govern if can’t win.”

Cindy Costa, a national committeewoman from South Carolina, called the speech “amazing.”

“It was impressive. I forgot about the Obama bear hug,” said Tennessee GOP Chairman Chris Devaney, referring to Christie’s tour of the New Jersey coastline with President Obama just days before last year’s presidential election, a moment of bipartisan harmony that rankled GOP activists and top members of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Though he earned rave reviews from a range of party leaders, a handful of RNC members, including several Paul supporters, left unimpressed. One conservative on the committee who declined to be identified called Christie “a pompous ass.”

Others expressed admiration for Christie but wondered whether his brash northeastern brand could appeal in other regions of the country.

If Christie does seek the presidency, he would face the prospect of courting voters in Iowa and South Carolina, where Republican primary contests tend to favor candidates from the conservative wing of the party.

“He wouldn’t play too well where I’m from because we’re a little bit too conservative,” said Alabama GOP Chairman Bill Armistead. “He is probably a bit more liberal socially than some folks. That would cause some problems in Alabama. But everybody loves that he tells it like it is and doesn’t flinch at the opposition.”

Christie, who is carefully balancing his re-election campaign in New Jersey this fall with efforts to build a national profile ahead of a possible presidential bid, held a handful of private meetings with some party leaders at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, including one with fundraiser Spencer Zwick, the national finance chairman of Romney’s 2012 campaign.

Christie avoided reporters during his day-long visit and made his way into the hotel ballroom where he gave his speech through a back entrance, rather than face a pack of nearly two dozen reporters waiting for him at the bottom of an escalator adjacent to the meeting.

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the RNC, declined to say whether the request to keep cameras out of the speech came from Christie high command.

“The event has always been closed press,” he said.

But when Spicer agreed to allow a single photographer into the speech to capture a still image of Christie, several reporters protested, prompting a heated argument between about the meaning of “closed press" with some prominent members of the Boston media.

Eventually, the photographer was allowed in, while the rest of the press waited outside for Christie to finish.


Filed under: Chris Christie • RNC
soundoff (158 Responses)
  1. As-if

    Well.. he probably has the best chance of a "republican" of winning in the general election but i doubt he can make it through the chaos we call the primaries. He's too centrist for the tea partiers and libertarians and not religious enough for the fundamentalists. But if the republicans want to win, a good ticket would be him and like Guillani or a black or latin or a woman ideally to neutralize the female/Billary vote.

    August 15, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "And so I am going to do anything I need to do to win.”"

    Starting with some Voter ID, early voting, registration and other changes to NJ's elections systems and procedures perhaps?

    August 15, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Hogan's Goat

    "It was impressive. I forgot about the Obama bear hug," This says it all. The GOP is dead. Long live the Tea Party and the Libertarians and the Old Guy Party and their candidates, Sarah Palin, Rand "Unelectable" Paul, and John "Grampaw McCoy" McCain.
    They are not in it to win, they are in it to say racist things about Obama. They tossed their political future away because it was more vicious fun to insult the man's race than to help him fix Cheney's mistakes.

    August 15, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. Gary

    By most accounts, Christie's remarks were met with enthusiasm by the nearly 200 state GOP chairmen, staffers and party insiders who attend these quarterly meetings.

    Woah, 200. I'm sure they counted the waiter and bus boys.
    Lots of enthusiasm there. Way to get the crowd going.

    August 15, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Middle Of The Road

    I'd vote for Christie if he picked a decent vice president. I tend to lean to the right on many issues but he is all about common sense which is what we need here right now. Picking either side based on party agenda is no longer viable and people need to realize it. Both sides are too extreme for our fragile economy right now and compromise is needed. And I believe Christie could be a good representative of that ideology.

    August 15, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  6. MmmmmMmmmmm

    Poor Christie... having to put on the cloak of crazy to get back in good graces back on the asylum. He started sounding very authoritarian and we all know that Conservatives/Republicans love authoritarianism (while at the same time claiming they don't). The "Political Purity Test" stuff is funny... those people who started that up evidently have zero knowledge of history. There were several groups that required political purity back in the 20th century... ironically, it's the groups that Republicans always preached about fearing.

    August 15, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  7. kmac

    The GOP has put forward nothing. They threaten to shut the Government down and they know it would end the Cons movement and the party. If they pull the peal back on the banana they are going to find the Federal Government the engine of the economy. NOT ONE major industry in this country started on its own-every single one was seeded by the Federal government starting with the Erie Canal through internet and cell phones. Cons refuse to admit that. If they believed in the Darwinism of Business they would end the Small Business Admin tomorrow.

    August 15, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. us_1776

    Let's review:

    GOP hates women.
    GOP hates blacks
    GOP hates Latinos
    GOP hates gays
    GOP hates the elderly
    GOP hates the poor
    GOP hates the sick
    GOP hates the disabled
    GOP hates scientists
    GOP hates education
    GOP hates the middle class
    GOP hates fact checkers

    Did we leave anybody out?

    And Christie cannot change this.

    .

    August 15, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. Tim

    Christie makes some very valid points that most ultra conservative and Tea Party Republicans just don't want to accept. The ONLY way that the GOP will win the White House is if their positions appeal to the MAJORITY of Americans. And those who have positions like Rand Paul simply will not get enough votes from the majority of Americans. The GOP has a choice – either stick with their rigid, out ot touch ideologies based on principle or accept the beliefs and priorities of most Americans in these days and times. And cutting taxes for the wealthy, trying to repeal Roe vs. Wade, trying to limit women's reproductive rights, etc., etc. just will NOT get them enough votes.

    August 15, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  10. Hmmmm

    " For our ideas to matter we have to win. Because if we don’t win, we don’t govern. And if we don’t govern all we do is shout to the wind. And so I am going to do anything I need to do to win.”
    And that includes lying, cheating, dishonesty, and pandering.

    August 15, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  11. NorCalMojo

    Oh look

    Christie burning bridges.

    How surprising.

    August 15, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  12. bspurloc

    u cant fix stewpid... and u cant disguise rich white religious nutcase racists either....

    August 15, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  13. Loathstheright

    People are finally realizing just what the racist, bigoted, fascist GOP is all about and they are turning away in droves.

    August 15, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  14. MagicPanties

    "...There's nothing wrong with our principles..."

    And that's why the GOP is destined to keep losing.

    August 15, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  15. Really??

    Chris Christie is NOT a republican. He is a democrat. How is this NOT obvious to people. And of course CNN posters like him, because he IS a democrat!!

    August 15, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. Marie MD

    Sorry, but your party "principles" are not only warped they are wrong on so many levels. I never trusted you because you did what a governor does in time of disaster. You helped your state. Can't see you as our president.
    Passing laws and legislation about what people should or shouldn't do with their bodies or lives is bullying (somethng you know a lot about) at it's worst.
    hurricane Sandy will be a memory. Women and men sho love these women will remember you're part of choice for them.

    August 15, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  17. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    This man makes since. I was upset and a little hard on him for that "Obama bear hug" But,if the GOP,has any chance of beating ClINTON. this is the man that can do it. Rand Paul, as much as i like him simply does not stand a chance.

    August 15, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  18. Lunia

    Mr. Paine, I second that!!!!!!!!

    August 15, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  19. Jay G

    GOP needs to stop wasting its time on things like abortion. Focus on issues that matter to the country. And I typically vote Republican. My wife used to vote Republican, but she frankly has been so turned off by the GOP's efforts to ban abortion in places like Texas and elsewhere that she probably won't GOP in the next election. Move into the 21 century, GOP, or continue to face irrelevance.

    August 15, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  20. Meet me in St. Louis

    I'm a democrat, but can certainly see the value in Christie's statements. My overall goal as an American is effective governance and leadership. If this guy runs in 2016, I will certainly entertain crossing the aisle.

    August 15, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  21. Dirt grub

    Christy days as a republican are over. He needs to become a democrat. Rand Paul is the future of the GOP. The people are sick of lying politicians

    August 15, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. Jim Hahn

    Unfortunately, Governor Christie, there is something wrong with your party's principals. Your party's principals revolve around: increasing wealth, destroying the environment, and demonizing and ostracizing immigrants, gays and women. Your party cares nothing for the common man and only truly accepts those who are ideologically pure. The so-called "big tent" has been collapsing steadily so that there is no longer room for anyone who does not put money and power first above all else. In fact, you may now find yourself not welcome any more.

    August 15, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  23. this

    “I am in this business to win. I don’t know why you are in it. I am in this to win,” Christie said at the RNC luncheon.

    Translation: I am a politician who puts my career before your best interests. I've had about as much as I can stand of this man.

    August 15, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  24. Davd

    Well, he's already lost the all important college professor vote.

    August 15, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  25. dmwinsd

    Personally I loved the 2012 election in which the GOP candidates debated all of the reasons why Romney should lose.

    August 15, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
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