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. Sniffit

    Chief judges from EIGHTY SEVEN jurisdictions tell Congress that the sequester, which the GOP/Teatrolls forced to take place because of their refusal to compromise, is killing the court systems and instead CNN wants to focus on Angry McAlsoran's latest rhetorical belch. Yawn.

    August 15, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. kvining

    When is Christie going to finally realize he is a Democrat?

    August 15, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    "Tea Potty". How clever! Intellect, thy name is Nathan Wimberly. And "Mitt the Twit"... BWAH! You are the master!

    August 15, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  4. Michael Smith

    To be the Repugliklan standard bearer (i.e., get enough money to run), a candidate just needs to satisfy a monied small group: Grover Norquist, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity (an oxymoron if one ever existed), and the Koch Brothers. No one else matters.

    August 15, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  5. Bill Smells

    Christie isn't going to get the nomination. He signed some anti-gun bills recently in NJ and that will quickly erode any support he'll get from the NRA or other 2nd Amendment Rights groups.

    August 15, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  6. chill

    These people have been demonizing giovernment for so long that they have no plans to govern. You can see it with Congress. They wouldn't have a majority in the House without their gerrymandering. I believe the Dems had over a million more votes for their House candidates than the GOP did, yet they ended up runnign the show. The Democratic priority for 2018 and 2020 has to be winning the state houses and governorships to reduce those abuses. Best thing that could happen is for the GOP to nominate Tea Party time and have them get creamed. Stop the excuses fromt he fringe.

    August 15, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  7. Alan

    Interesting that he chose the word "govern" as opposed to lead. Govern -to exercise continuous sovereign authority over; especially : to control and direct the making and administration of policy.

    Do we really need more of this? I prefer inspiration through leadership not dogma slammed down my throat by some ideology.

    August 15, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. dr. Sikes

    Republicans only care about their rich cronies. . . Everyone else in this country needs to wake up to that fact–Don't vote against your own best interests, people!!

    August 15, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  9. Michele

    He's done some good here in NJ, but not nearly enough. He's big on helping the rich and the business community avoid taxes and get freebies*, but he cares and does NOTHING for the average Joe. My RE taxes jumped by 25%, and that's AFTER I challenged the assessment and won. * The shore apparently spends around 14-15 mil a year on advertising. He gave the 29 MILLION of the Sandy money (intended to help residents) to proclaim that the Jersey Shore is back. There are still those who are homeless after Sandy.

    August 15, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  10. Data Driven

    The Sopranos Are Back! Coming Fall 2015!

    This act is going to be wearing quite thin by then, though.

    August 15, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  11. LtButRt

    Esoteric? Yes. Intellectual? No. The governor is giving his party way to much credit I that department. Oh yeah, Christie you're just a blowhard. Some people like it; but, in realty you are made up of very little political substance.

    August 15, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  12. KR

    I personally think that Christie is too far to the left for acceptance by the majority of today's GOP...

    August 15, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  13. David

    I was warming up to the Boss right up until now. So much for a moderate Republican I would vote for.

    August 15, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. Mike

    Christie would do the right thing if he won in 2016 but the problem is the right wingers will never ever let him get thru the primaries. The GOPers have lost sight that winning is the goal, demeaning the American public will only continue to cause key election losses.

    August 15, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  15. Kelly

    Christie needs to stop focusing on partisan politics and "winning" for his party and his seat in 2016, and focus on New Jersey and crumbling economy. He's ignoring his state for his own motives- I haven't seen such a sharp decline of an entire state with one person in office in my entire life, and it deeply saddens me.

    August 15, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  16. bear

    There is not a nickel's worth of difference between the GOP establishment and the Democrats. Both will spend huge amounts of money, both will continue to involve us in middle east conflicts, both will continue the NSA spying, both will continue to take money from big corporations, labor, ABA, NEA, ADA, AMA, etc and do the bidding of the big special interests. Both will continue wasting huge amounts of money on big defense programs, big welfare programs. Neither is doing anything about the job loss to China or illegal immigration. Neither has proposed anything that would truly deal with the deficits we are running. If you are looking for common sense government, picking between these two parties is like a guy from PETA choosing sides in a dog fight.

    August 15, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. Hogan's Goat

    "They need to stop needlessly demonizing working people and families in this country as being welfare dependents with their hands out" Why? It works for them, so far. Old farmers out in Kansas listen to nothing but FOX. To them, we are all alien invaders who have "smartphones" and "computers" to spy on them out in the barn with Bessie. They vote as they are told to vote.

    August 15, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. Bill

    He forgot one of the things that they must do to win. Not having a heart attack or stroke before 2016 would be nice.

    August 15, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. somebody

    "We need to stop navel gazing. There's nothing wrong with our principles. We need to focus on winning again. ..."

    1. Yes. The GOP needs to stop navel gazing.
    2. The problem with today's GOP is that there is such a huge difference between their stated principles and they're actual behavior. Cutting spending is the exact opposite of creating jobs. Forcing women to have ultra sound procedures is the exact opposite of more freedom. Attempting to block a muslim community center from being built in NY is the exact opposite of supporting the 1st Amendment right to religious freedom. Today's GOP votes against bills that either they themselves have introduced or have at least supported in the past.
    3. We need to focus on winning again.
    Uh, the GOP's only focus is on winning. They have forgotten how to focus on doing good things for the people once they are elected. The GOP needs to return to having more moderate members who can compromise for the good of everyone.

    August 15, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. Engineer in Raleigh

    A ball of earwax has a better chance than Christie of winning the GOP presidential primary.

    All it will take is that picture of him hugging Obama with a voiceover howling "NOBAWMMMER". A five second ad. Max... And every brain-dead Republican primary voter will think he's satan incarnate.

    August 15, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain

    "It was impressive. I forgot about the Obama bear hug," said Tennessee GOP Chairman Chris Devaney.

    Comments like that cement the impression that all GOPers are a bunch of whiny children.

    August 15, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. kirk

    See I'm still crazy guys.now give me some Koch cash

    August 15, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain

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

    Except the fact that they result in promoting failed economic, military and foreign policies and the disenfranchising of non-GOP voters.

    August 15, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  24. Ragin Cajun

    Ooooh! Pointy elbows on the big man! Bet the whole Cosa Nostra approach to politics falls flat in the heartland and down in Dixie. Every single successful Republican candidate for POTUS since FDR has had to show a much more genteel approach to win. They have also had to be idealogues to whip up enough rabid support to overcome the Democratic leaning urban centers in the critical combination of states that even have the potential for going Republican.

    Prediction: Christie doesn't make it out of Iowa in the top two and dies a horrid political death in South Carolina.

    August 15, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  25. karen503

    Christie: "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."

    But Chris, the whole point of the Tea Party takeover in 2010 was to win, and NOT govern. And they have convinced the Republican base that's the way to go. I'm afraid your speech is nothing more than more impotent shouting to the wind.

    ...Aside from the shallow thinkers like Tennessee GOP Chairman Chris Devaney, who was so dazzled by Christie's shouting that he pretended he immediately forgot the bearhug.

    August 15, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
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