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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.
If they make eating burgers most important thing, I pick Christie.
The party of NO is going to have to purge itself of crazies.
All I ever get from this guy (as well as many politicians) is fluff, just a bunch of words. Hell, even when they do "act" it never seems to effect anything I come into contact with, except taxes of course I ALWAYS feel that. A little here a little there and my middle class postion erodes a little further. Even if I liked this politician I can't get past the fact he has no self control, I demand more from my politicians, these people are in highly responsible position and when they can't even control themselves (be it eating, gambling, etc) how can I have faith in their decision that effect us all.
These people don't care about us, all they do care about is HOhow we will vote at the next election.
I am saddened to hear him say they should GOVERN and not LEAD also. They claim they want small govt until it is time to put the kibosh on your personal choices (yes, Bloomberg has too..so what-I dont like him either). The gap between rich and poor wont be "wider" it will be "complete" if they Govern (rule ). I want someone to lead and run the govt rather than someone to demonize and reign over it.
The GOP has moved so far to the extreme right, they have become unfit to govern.
Lol. I have to say that those on the left are brilliant spinmasters. So, just for the record, the sequester was Obama's idea. And he was given the opportunity to prioritize what gets paid first and in what order. So if something like EIGHTY SEVEN jurisdictions are complaining, perhaps the complaints should go to the man that created the sequester and decided NOT to sign a bill that was passed by Congress allowing the president to prioritize.
You guys are amazing. Oh, and let's not forget that it wasn't a cut in the spending, it was a cut in the increase. But why let facts get in the way of your good story.
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!!
how is living off the government dole in my best interest??? how is taking more than i contribute helping this country??? your leftist union mentality of taking as much as you can with complete disregard for the consequences to this country is why we are $17 trillion in debt and climbing fast.
I actually don't mind Christie that much. But all this winning talk makes me think of Charlie Sheen
Nah, Christie is not crazy enough to pass the primary. Forget it.
And the Greedy Old People double down on the crazy once again! "Change BAD, dogma GOOD, grunt grunt drool".
I really think that Christie is the GOP's only chance for a win in 2016. Anything else will be going too far to the right and out of the race.....
He will not win for a few reasons: he's not a bad guy, he's fat, he's from New Jersey, his own NJ re-election calls him a 'reformer' and not a republican
"There's nothing wrong with our principles." Really Governor, really? Tax cuts for billionaires is right? Humiliating woman who want an abortion is right? Attacking gays in the military is right? Talking about electrifying the border fence with Mexico is right?
Ronald Reagan would not be accepted by today's Republican party, they would say he wasn't conservative enough. Christie is left of that position so it's hard to imagiine today's GOP, which is in thrall to the extreme far-right wing of the tea party fringe, looking upon him as a viable candidate for their already Clinton-doomed 2016 presidential bid.
I kind of like that..... The Tea Potty......it fits well and should stick......
"And so I am going to do anything I need to do to win."
Reminds me of a preacher who advised his congregation to lie during jury selection about their opposition to abortion. Speaking truthfully about their views prevented them from being on the jury. If they weren't on the jury they couldn't influence the outcome of abortion related cases according to their principles.
In other words, do first what you need to do to gain power, then use your power to achieve your true ends.
(I liked Christie a whole lot more before I read this story.)
Sounds like Christie did just call the current GOP the stupid party. Christie seems to be saying: "The hell with principles, Ill do or say anything to win." But as long as he opposes Gay marriage and denies global warming, he is indicating that he is almost as 'stupid' as the rest of his party.
I thought the word "pragmatic" was now a swear word at minimum in most of the Republican party and in some almost heresy.
The GOP only cares about WASP and the top 3%.....it's only about the money and power to them.
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
If that is your idea of the future, your party is also but done. Good luck with that.
"There's nothing wrong with our principles."
Hmmmm. So, why, then, have you avoided DISPLAYING any???
"We need to focus on winning again"
Hmmmm again. That's ALL you have focused on - which is the entire problem. No-Idea Machiavellians.
Some, but nearly enough GOP'ers will listen to and like Christie because he talks sensibly. He goes with the art of the possible pretty much, which is all anybody can when you get down it. I hope they don't run him for President because i really don't think he knows much beyond Jersey. You need more than sound judgement, you need information and SOME of it has to already be in your memory bank.
The GOP isn't getting anywhere near the White House until they purge the crazies from their party.
Christie needs to step back, he is not an option that can defeat the Demos. In fact, NOW would be a GREAT time for a new Independent Party – vote out ALL career politicians.
I am a Democrat leaning Independent, but I would vote for Christie. I admire a man who doesn't care what you think, or if you agree with him, he tells it like it is. I would rather vote for someone who didn't sugarcoat everything, whether I agreed with him or not, than for a politician that tells me exactly what I want to hear, then tells someone else the exact opposite just to get a vote.