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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.
I don't think there's a Republican I respect less than Christie, and that's saying a lot. He's so anti-liberty it's jarring. At least the crazy bigots also hate government, this guy loves government and does nothing for liberty at all.
OK, I respect Santorum less. But it's getting closer every day.
Christie has a point to make. But if he is to make it he must be willing to risk a real uprising in the party. He is going to have to be specific. "There is nothing wrong with our principles" is not going to get the job done – because there very much is. Their principles are too white. Their principles are to over 50. And their principles are too religeously fundamentalist. Lyndon Johnson once said "If you want to make an omlet, you have to break some eggs". Chris Christie needs to start breaking some eggs. In order to do it he has to be willing to risk a personal loss. It is a paradox, but without a national personality being willing to take that risk, I do not see how his party can come back and win.
I like Christie. He is a straight shooter who tells it like it is and does not pander to the rest of the GOP. TOO BAD he is a Republican or I would have voted for him.
liberals are the public face of those who seek to destroy our culture and values. RINO's are liberals. Therefore RINO's want to destroy our culture and values....therefore they are not conservatives.
time to split the GOP and give america a proper conservative party.
The GOP will govern again when they present themselves as socially responsible and fiscally pragmatic. Lose the Christian Right and the Tea Party nut jobs. The abortion ship has sailed, the gay rights ship has sailed. Our nation is NOT FOUNDED on Christian values. It w as founded on human values. For that to work the silent majority of centrists will need to make their voices heard; especially in the primaries at a local level
all polls show there's not a gop member that can stand up to the Hill in a presidential run. Christie fairs the best against her, but he's too moderate to get the nomination. rand paul gets crushed by her in the polls (and he's part of the whacko fringe of the gop). Rubio might be able to do some damage if say he ran with someone like Condi Rice, but she won't run; and even if Rubio makes a run all the Hill needs to do is run with Julian Castro on the ticket and she's got the election in the bag (and maybe the electorate from Texas along with it). The GOP are out of touch. I would love to vote for a conservative candidate, but all are far to right for my liking, so I'll look to the middle (or at least who is closest to the middle).
For the most part the Republican Party is tethered to a dark, prehistoric bygone era. Their political symbol, matching their rhetoric and style, should properly be updated from elephant to dinosaur. As a former Republican, now middle-of-the road Democrat, I see nothing hopeful or humane about the Dinosaur Party's ethics, values, conservative beliefs or practices. They are, in my opinion, of the neo-narrow ilk which people of enlightened social and spiritual conscience abhor. Christie himself is isn't bad and I could name a few others like the lovely lady senators from Maine, but what Christie would drag behind him if elected on the national scene makes me shiver. Gov. Christie, what's the point of electing hardshoe Republicans so long as they choose to defy the divinity of a higher humanity? This we do not need.
Christie can try to talk sense to the lunatic base of the GOP.
But they take their orders from Rush Limbough.
“He wouldn’t play too well where I’m from because we’re a little bit too conservative,” said Alabama GOP Chairman Bill Armistead.
So dont complain when another democrat is elected because you cant think for yourself and put America before your party, comrade.
It's funny that some say its the Republicans fault. While others say its the Democrats fault.
Our grandchildren will look at us and say it happened on our watch.
That is why we vote and why we fight for our beliefs and privileges.
Christie is the only chance for republicans in 2016. He is too liberal for tea party, too much of a bully for many, and doesn't have appearance going for him. That said, I kind of respect him for speaking his mind, but Hillary will win easily simply because there are just too many crazies in the GOP.
That college professor line was a shot at Presidnt Obama since he used to be one!!
Christie should run as a Democrat. The Republicans are tired of seeing his fat ass.
No need to be concerned about what Dems say. Most are liars anyway.
For all those reading so much into the 'I want to win' comments, he's just making a very practical point to a room full of political operatives: If you don't win, you can't even begin to implement your policies.
It's probably all moot, however, unless moderate Republicans can generate some kind of groundswell in the primaries to take control away from the ideologues. Such a feat would go against the very long history of primaries belonging to the extremes on the right and left. If you want a measurer of Christie's authenticity, note how he is NOT veering to the right, even though he surely knows he is setting himself up for a much steeper climb to the nomination.
And by the way, I know one of his law school classmates, who reports that he is exactly the same Christie she knew. So take him or leave him, what you see is what you get.
Fed on a steady diet of Faux News and Hate Radio, the GOP base is rabid and insane.
Any Republican Presidential candidate, no matter how moderate, has to pander to the base to get the GOP nomination.
But pandering to these crazies will absolutely guarantee that they lose the general election.
Doesn't matter what he says. They hate him for getting relief for freezing people after the Superstorm. They feel that he should have let people die and property collapse and blame Obama, so they could get votes from the misery. They will NEVER run him for president, and he will be run out of Jersey by Grover Norquist's moneybombs when his term's up.
“I am in this business to win. I don’t know why you are in it. I am in this to win,”
1) It's not a business. You are representing the people you d-bag!
2) If it's only about winning, then it's not about serving the best interests of the people.
These GOP nutbags still do not get it. Don't trust them.
The GOP is currently split into about 3 directions.....that won't work. They know it themselves....but will they compromise and come together? Compromise hasn't proven to be in their skill set.
I wouldn't vote for him , but you have to respect him.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie isn't going into the rubber room with the crazy's .
For more than a decade, the GOP has been purging moderates from the party.
All that's left is a bunch of crazies.
Christie's message falls on deaf ears.
I live in S Carolina and I would vote for CC all day long.
Chris, come over from the dark side. We have a big tent here on the left.
At first I thought the article said "Christie Rapes Potential 2016 Rivals". That would have been much more amusing.
I like the name "Tea Potty." It seems to fit perfectly for the right-wing ideology that is most certainly in the "crapper."