March 6th, 2014
01:28 PM ET
7 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. Al-NY,NY

    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
    ---------------–

    you really need to give credit to your sources when you basically cut and paste GOP "talking points" verbatim...although you might want to try spell check

    March 6, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. Jme

    No one wants a old ugly white women as president.

    March 6, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  3. smith

    @Bill fro GA- "Great turnaround", all I see is more of the same crap from corrupt politicians doing the bidding for political donors. Half the country on food stamps, any sense of creditability was lost with the NSA scandal, education compared to other countries still in the gutter, higher taxes, plunged Egypt, Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine into chaos, and took a junk healthcare system and somehow made it worse. Wonderful turnaround. Maybe for the rich.

    March 6, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  4. Paul

    Christie is a real force, that's why Democrats are threatened by him.

    March 6, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    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.
    ------------------------–
    You're just reciting the party talking points. Obviously, you haven't looked at his budgets and how they have evolved over time. His first budget was hundreds of millions in the red because his staff totally bungled applying for federal education funds. New Jersey received nothing due to their incompetence. In typical Christie fashion, he fired that entire particular group.

    March 6, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    The debt ceiling was just the start. Can't wait to see the GOBP stuff Jeb Bush down the tea potty's throats 2012 Mitt the twit style.

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

    "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."
    -------------------------–
    That's a great idea. Republicans all are for repealing the Affordable Care Act, Governor. Where have you been?

    March 6, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    They cannot talk about what they are FOR because they are not for anything that they can publicly voice, that would appeal to a mass group of people any longer.
    The Republicans cannot even call themselves a Party as there is nothing that unifies them as such. So how can you ask this group to say what they stand for?
    Sure we can read their tenets and everything else they came up with at their convention, on their website but don' t you see the implosion and the fracturing of the GOP? That is indicative of a lack of unifiyinf factors and beliefs within the Party itself. There is no unity amongst Republicans because it has turned into a Party that no longer answers to the people that elected them but instead to those that fund them.
    It is pitiful enough that the Republicans are paying Joe Blow lip service, but evidently they are paying themselves the same lip-service, as a consequence they are not gelling but fracturing into many factions.
    They can't even claim to be the Party of Country First.
    They have become the Party of Every Republican for Himself.
    Shameful, unpatriotic lot of germs.

    March 6, 2014 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  9. TONE

    Christie is in a slow roast an apple anyone.

    March 6, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  10. jillib

    Why would the warm reception surprise anyone? The republicans have virtually no standards – what little they do have are very fluid – crooks and liars earn bonus points. Whats really distasteful, and would certainly be a black mark on christie is his willingness to speak at the clown show. His personae of being a bridge-builder is kind of blown to shreds by attending such a horrific spectacle.

    March 6, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  11. Gurgyl

    This NJ guy lost his ethics, morale, mind. He will never be anywhere closer.

    March 6, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  12. jillib

    ""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."

    Well, another surprise, another ill-informed republican.

    It tooks 1 minute to prove him wrong. Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Howell Heflin (D-AL) and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Former House Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-MI) spoke at multiple conventions, as did Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

    CPAC, it's a trip to an alternate reality.

    March 6, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  13. Steve

    Where? Krispy Creme's?

    March 6, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. Ol' Yeller

    @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"

    I know.... I listened to george w bush's, rumsfeld's, and condi rice's speeches about wmd's and nucular mushroom clouds. How we were in danger of losing our freedom to the freedom hating freedom haters. How the war would only last 6 or 3 minutes and be paid for by iraqi oil and some coupons on the bottom of the wmd boxes. About how we accomplished our mission and I even learned how to duck shoes thrown by freedom hating freedom haters. You can rest assured that christie's speeches are about as accurate and substansive as those....

    March 6, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  15. Dennis Freeman

    Sounds okay, but the problem is their ideas are NOT better

    March 6, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. salty dog

    Brian: much research should be done before praising this fool, how's the education system doing? And I suppose he's innocent of all charges. I've heard all the gop hype, total BS, I have seen governor Snyder's ads, complete lies, nothing could be further from the truth. Christie cut funding for programs that help the needy, for tax cuts for the rich, we've seen this show before, just as disgusting now, as then. The next big lie is Wisconsin is seventh in the nation on job growth, real studies has it 38th. You can vote to cut your own throat, I'll try to save mine thanks.

    March 6, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  17. Alan

    It must be said: Lean? Not so sure about that.

    March 6, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  18. salty dog

    Speeches, really, your certain to get the truth there, you really should back off the fox news. Ever wonder how people know when you been watching fox? Their BS has a distinct odor of hate.

    March 6, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    LOL. He complains about the MSM and yet CNN fails to report on the conservatives who walked out on him.

    As for his rote recitation of meaningless, substanceless, unsupportable GOP/Teatroll talking points: /golfclap

    All he did was throw the trained seals their sardines and they clapped as programmed.

    March 6, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    "...... About how we accomplished our mission and I even learned how to duck shoes thrown by freedom hating freedom haters. You can rest assured that christie's speeches are about as accurate and substansive as those...."

    My man, George, had a pretty impressive left duck. Didn't he? He had a quick one, two.

    March 6, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  21. The REAL Truth...

    LOL – here we go again with CPAC.. Per something Rudy posted a while back...
    "That's funny. It demonstrates exactly what I've been saying about conservatives and their messaging. They think that they are so right about everything, that if people just heard and understood their message, then they would become instant converts to conservatism, right on the spot. It just never crosses your mind that people have heard and fully understood your message, but they are quite simply and totally put off by it.

    Why do conservatives always think that the problem is getting their message across to people, when in reality the problem is that they have gotten their message across.....and the Tea Party has only made it even worse."

    March 6, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "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."

    As current chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie has been spending money to attack Dem gubernatorial candidates who support expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, even though he is expanding Medicaid under the ACA in NJ.

    THAT is the type of rank hypocrisy and self-serving BS he shovels. It's chest-deep and rising.

    March 6, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Sorry dude but I respectfully disagree. I am one who is tired of anyone using the Hitler reference for anything. It is dumb when they use to compare to Obama, it was wrong when they did it with Bush and it is wrong in this case, too. If you use Hitler to reference what someone is doing then you are absolutely comparing that person to Hitler. It is beyond irresponsible. As a Jew, it is also beyond offensive. Sorry, but just because there is some minute similarity, as this is one country with deep ties to the invading country, the comparison is willfully ignorant of more important facts than that. It is disgusting, in my opinion, to ever reference anyone to Hitler. He f'ing murdered 10 million people. Period. It's not even close and to use his name turns up the volume no matter how you spin it. It certainly agitates and that, to me, is the wrong approach. For you to ignore that is not surprising as to WHO the words came from....

    You can disagree with me all you want. You're still wrong and you're still trying to change the subject from your original post. You accused Clinton of "saying Putin was Hitler." I clearly explained why that was not at all what she was doing, because what she was doing was referencing the similarity in what both of them had said to explain why there is such alarm in EU right now over his actions...then pivot to saying that cooler heads should prevail and that the similarity is not a reason for rash overreactions. You're now trying to play the "I'm tired of Hitler references" card. Well, so what? I don't really care what you're tired of. You've only now become tired of it because Clinton said something...and yet you come here day in, day out and say nothing in the face of your conservative cohorts calling Obama Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mousilini, etc. every day, all day. But SUDDENLY, you don't like it? BS. You got schooled and now you want to change the subject.

    March 6, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "some minute similarity, as this is one country with deep ties to the invading country, the comparison is willfully ignorant of more important facts than that"

    There is more than a "minute similarity" here. It is a literal and complete similarity. Hitler ran around justifying invasion of some areas based on the presence of ethnic Germans he "needed to protect." Putin is saying the same exact thing here. That doesn't require any spin or twisting of words to make the comparison work. And don't play the Jew card here either. As a Jew, you come here daily and say nothing as your conservative buddies spew "Obama is Hitler" every day, all day and you have NEVER said anything about it before. SUDDENLY, you take umbrage when Clinton makes a comparison based on historical facts that is actually completely accurate? Swallow your faux outrage and grow up.

    March 6, 2014 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  25. Bill from GA

    smith – @Bill fro GA- "Great turnaround",

    So you prefer a country loosing 750,000 jobs per month (Dec. 2008), stocks falling 50% in a few months, GDP around MINUS 6 or 7 %??

    "Great turnaround" means we had a TURNAROUND, if it didn't help you, maybe you could get the repubs to do more of what DID WORK.

    EU tried austerity, as the repubs want. They are just now above water.
    FACTS are FACTS.

    March 6, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
1 2 3 4