March 6th, 2014
01:28 PM ET
5 months ago

Christie gets warm reception at gathering of the right

Updated 2:53 p.m. ET, 3/6/2014

National Harbor, Maryland (CNN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, receiving a warm reception from a large conservative audience Thursday, said the GOP needs to change the way it shares its message with voters in order to defeat Democrats in future elections.

"We've got to start talking about what we're for and not what we're against," the Republican governor said. "Our ideas are better than their ideas, and that's what we have to stand up for."

Christie spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference - better known by its initials, CPAC - which kicked off Thursday at National Harbor, a major convention center just outside of the nation's capital. The conference is the largest annual gathering of conservative leaders and activists.

When there's no Republican in the White House, it's a must-attend cattle call for GOP presidential hopefuls looking to pass the conference's conservative litmus test.

The pragmatic second-term governor, never popular with many in the party's conservative base, was not invited to last year's conference. CPAC organizers said Christie was snubbed because some of his positions were not conservative enough.

No spit-balling in the states

As current chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie highlighted the work of several GOP governors in tackling entitlement reform, pointing to the governors of Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Florida–all of whom are up for re-election this year.

Christie, a consistent critic of Washington, argued that states are accomplishing more progress than lawmakers in the nation's capital.

"Leadership is about getting in and getting something done and making government work. Leadership is not about standing on the sidelines and spit-balling," he said. "And that's all we see all across Washington, D.C. but it's not what we see in the states."

Reacting to the speech, Ted Dooley, a Republican student at Boston College, argued Christie was creating a pathway for 2016.

"You could tell it was setting a platform for a Republican governor winning in 2016. I think that was the major undertone of his speech," he said.

Joe Graziano, a New Jersey political consultant, said he thought Christie's speech was "good."

"He certainly captures the state well, he embodied the state of New Jersey," he said.

Quiet about problems back in New Jersey

Unsurprisingly, Christie said nothing of the controversy he faces at home. State and federal investigations are underway over allegations that some of his aides closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, for not endorsing Christie's re-election.

The governor has denied knowing anything about the gridlock until after it occurred, and has said he knew nothing about any political mischief by members of his administration. But the scandal's put a cloud over Christie's political future, which may include a bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, the group that organizes CPAC, said the national media coverage of the controversies in New Jersey might help Christie with the party's base, which doesn't like to see Republicans attacked by the media, adding that the episode's made conservatives "kindred spirits with Gov. Christie."

James Newberry of McLean, Virginia said he liked Christie's speech, but he wouldn't vote for him because of the bridge controversy.

"The scandal really bothers me. Just the corruption, the kind of people he had around him. It just seemed very petty and his state already has a reputation for corruption," he said. "He's...a little bit like Richard Nixon as far as the dirty tricks and stuff."

Aurelian Braun, a masters student at Hillsdale College in Michigan, liked the speech but is still upset with Christie over his embrace of Obama in the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The two were seen side-by-side just days before the 2012 presidential election, and Christie was accused by fellow Republicans of elevating the President's image.

"He raised awareness for President Obama with low information voters," Braun said. "And that's one of the big ways that the Democrats beat us in the general election. In the general election it's getting information out to low information voters."

'Party of intolerance'

Christie argued Thursday the media was also to blame for any Republican disconnect with voters.

"We have to stop letting the media define who we are and what we stand for," he said, adding a story about a reporter who claimed the GOP was intolerant on social issues. Christie, who reminded the audience of his own anti-abortion views, argued Republicans were more open-minded and more inclusive of pro-abortion rights candidates and voters than Democrats are of anti-abortion views.

"We've had people like Tom Ridge and Colin Powell and Condi Rice speak at our national conventions, even though our party platform and I don't agree with their position on abortion," he said. "Tell me…the last pro-life Democrat who was allowed to speak at a Democratic convention…By the way, don't strain yourself 'cause there's never been one."

"They're the party of intolerance, not us," he said.

'We have an opportunity inequality problem'

While the governor preached Republican principles, he took time to blast the Obama administration over the economy and foreign policy.

"We need to talk about the fact that we are for a free market society that allows your effort and your ingenuity to determine your success–not the cold hard hand of government determining winners and losers, which is what this administration is all about."

He also seemed hit Obama over the President's recent efforts to raise the minimum wage.

"We don't need, Mr. President, your opinion on inequality," he said. "We don't have an inequality problem, we have an opportunity inequality problem."

On foreign policy, Christie argued "dysfunction in D.C. and lack of leadership in the White House" have made the country significantly lose its global influence.

"We need to make sure we say we are for am being a leader in the world, and we are for a strong national defense, not one that allows other countries to run us over all over the world.

Straw poll ballot

Christie is one of 25 names on the CPAC GOP presidential nomination straw poll. The results will be released on Saturday, as the conference closes.

The results of the CPAC straw poll are analyzed and scrutinized on TV and online. But the idea that the results are any kind of barometer of what will actually happen in the battle for the GOP nomination are extremely debatable.

For a second straight year, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush asked that his name not be placed on the ballot.

Last year's contest ended up being a two-person race, with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky winning the straw poll with 25% of the vote, one percentage point ahead of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The 21 other people on the ballot were far behind, registering in single digits.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chris Christie • CPAC
soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. it must be said

    Christie is looking like one lean mean fighting machine.... No wonder Democrats are targeting him and trying to smear him.

    March 6, 2014 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    "We've got to start talking about what we're for and not what we're against," the Republican governor said. "Our ideas are better than their ideas, and that's what we have to stand up for."

    Political discourse at CPAC: "Our ideas are better than their ideas."

    "No they aren't".

    "Are too".

    "Are not".

    Christ Christie standing his ground:

    [ fill in the blank ]

    March 6, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  3. Tampa Tim

    Of course he would. His administration is under investigation for wrong doing. He says he was completely unaware of what was reported on media, and had no idea what his appointees were doing in the next room. If you are involved in wrongdoing, CPAC is on your side.

    March 6, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  4. salty dog

    Still waiting for you yo tell us what your for, and let's hear those great ideas, let me guess, tax cuts for the rich creates jobs, jobs, jobs. I guess a skunk can't smell his own hole.

    March 6, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  5. Tampa Tim

    One thing for certain, conservatives cannot run on their accomplishments.

    March 6, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  6. Thomas

    NRA's "Courage Under Fire" lifetime achievement award's runner up is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

    Gun Safety is using two hands on the GWB !

    Teach gun safety to children , it's more important then the hot lunch program or physical education .

    March 6, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  7. salty dog

    Lean mean joke machine, he brought this on himself, and its getting deeper by the day. The gop never cared too much for him,until he proved corrupt beyond repair. Rick Scott, Scott walker, Rick Snyder, quite the company to keep, the Koch brothers love the lowlifes

    March 6, 2014 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  8. sonny chapman

    Jesus Christ snuck into CPAC & began speaking to the audience. He spoke the Words found in the Gospel of Matthew. He was called a Community Organizer, Socialist , not tough enough on Putin or Assad & was booed off of the stage.

    March 6, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  9. Bill from GA

    If I was the Mayor of Washington, DC, I would have a 'traffic incident' on I-295 South at National Harbor Exit 1B. Maybe close the exit for a 'Traffic Study' for a few days.

    Now THAT would be FUNNY.

    March 6, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. Bill from GA

    "We've got to start talking about what we're for and not what we're against," the Republican governor said. "Our ideas are better than their ideas, and that's what we have to stand up for."

    I wonder if Christie remembers the world economic collapse of 2008, caused by Bush's economic ideas.
    And what a Great Turnaround we had by President Obama, which was only slowed when repubs got enough votes in Congress to halt Obama's agenda.

    March 6, 2014 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. Pandamonius

    Christie receives warm reception at CPAC.

    Sounds like the GOP has finally realized he's the only one that stands a chance during a general election. Now they are in emergency mode, trying to repair all the damage that they themselves have done to his credibility.

    March 6, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  12. David

    So Chris-Chris wasn't deemed "conservative enough" to be invited to last year's CPAC, but now that he's been caught doing something illegal, he gets invited to come blame it all on the media. LOL.

    March 6, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  13. Bubba

    Christie is correct; the GOP needs to stop allowing the media to define them, and allow their values of hate, tax evasion, and discrimination shine through.
    Ha ha ha ha. The GOP is about to answer for their holy fascist views.

    March 6, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  14. king

    Christi is just another George bush with weight. giving corporations tax money to invest in china is not good business for us in america. i wonder what it will be like when the repubs kick out all the money making programs like obamacare, rebuilding our great country, and sucking out the rest of spending money we have left in this country, i wonder if companies will jump ship again like they did in the bush years. lesson folks money makes money and if the repubs keeps cutting spenders money, where the hell you think big corporations going to go. i see these red states governor always saying that their states are doing well, but what is well means, does that means that the poor, working class who are in poverty doesn't count. what the plan for getting out of poverty since raising the minimum wage is out of the questions, and dont tell me about cutting corporate taxes, and deregulate, because they have no more taxes to cut, and if we deregulate anymore, folks will be walking around with 2 heads, 3 arms, from all the polluted water and environment destruction that will cause.

    March 6, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  15. JJ

    of course he will. a corrupt politician among a gaggle of other corrupt politicians? great reception!

    March 6, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  16. sly

    Kinda doubt the obese one will be alive next year – there is a whole lot of bacon fat coursing through those clogged veins.

    Typical cheap Jersey mobsters – they've been running that state since Al Capone's days.

    March 6, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  17. Randy, San Francisco

    The only problem is the GOP ideology and policies on so many issues like gay marriage, abortion, women's rights, income inequality, and voting rights are not supported by a majority of Americans. The messenger is as bad as the message.

    March 6, 2014 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  18. Silence DoGood

    @Bubba
    Christie is correct; the GOP needs to stop allowing the media to define them, and allow their values of hate, tax evasion, and discrimination shine through.
    Ha ha ha ha. The GOP is about to answer for their holy fascist views.
    -----------
    I think the tea party can explain this best in a way which made me laugh. It was serious though.
    "We needed to have the press be our friend ... We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported." —Sharron Angle, during an interview with Fox News Channel's Carl Cameron, Aug. 2, 2010

    March 6, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. I AM

    CPAC is just a buch of impotent old men in a circle jerk.

    March 6, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  20. Brian

    @Salty Dog, If you were really interested in what Christie stands for, all you have to do is look at any of his previous budget speeches. He is for fiscal responsibility. He is for getting us on a strong footing so we can continue to grow without shifting our problems and burdens to future generations. He is about quality education and extending the school year to make our students more competetive. He is about adressing problems and stop spending money on studing them (for 30 yrs). He is about standing up for your ideals but also accepting others.

    March 6, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  21. Natalie

    GOP desperation at its best. Clearly GOP policies of the past have been long forgotten by these turdballs. Remember the those two unfunded wars ("Mission Accomplished!") and tax breaks for the wealthiest? GOP policies are a proven failure...why would we want a repeat? Trickle down simply doesn't.

    March 6, 2014 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  22. Dave

    Republicans actually approve of attacking Democratic voters. The scandals will only help Christie with the base.

    March 6, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  23. Thomas

    Fat boy will never be president. We want a true conservative not a RINO.

    Rand Paul 2016

    March 6, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. Ol' Yeller

    ""We've had people like Tom Ridge and Colin Powell and Condi Rice speak at our national conventions, even though our party platform and I don't agree with their position on abortion," he said. "Tell me…the last pro-life Democrat who was allowed to speak at a Democratic convention…By the way, don't strain yourself 'cause there's never been one."

    Uh.... so you have trotted out a few people who disagree with your platform because you are just such a tolerable party?

    Really? Really!?! Well, let's just ignore the fact that two of them were black (cause I'm sure that had nothing to do with it) and that the same two were also high echelon administrators within the bush party. They were not invited to speak because of their stance on abortion, they were allowed to speak in spight of their stance on abortion (I mean Condi being one of 3 black female republicants in the history of the party probably had nothing to do with it).
    My own opinion on the people they get to speak at the RNC is that when the highlight of your Conference is Clint Eastwood having an argument with an empty chair, it is a little hard to go any further down the hill than that.

    March 6, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, the group that organizes CPAC, said the national media coverage of the controversies in New Jersey might help Christie with the party's base, which doesn't like to see Republicans attacked by the media, adding that the episode's made conservatives "kindred spirits with Gov. Christie."
    ---------------------------------
    I'd say Christie has covered all of the bases. He played the victim card. He blamed the biased media. He bashed the White House. He praised the "free market society". a.k.a. plutocracy. He affirmed our need for a strong national defense and world respect. Finally, he forgot all about jobs, jobs, jobs, the poor, the middle class, etc.

    March 6, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
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