March 6th, 2014
01:28 PM ET
9 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. Bill from GA

    smith – "higher taxes"

    If you are paying higher taxes since Obama took office, you must be in the top 5%.

    March 6, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  2. Devon

    It's hypocritical that democrats have demonized Christie and tainted him guilty without proof that he was involved in the bridge closing. But, the IRS having admitted they attacked over 300 conservative groups and people on Obama's enemy list is somehow not a scandal at all. I'm not a fan of Christie, but anyone can see this from a mile away.

    March 6, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Dominican mama 4 Obama
    ....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?

    I agree with your post and will go a step farther. You can read their tenets and their website but if you know what they really stand for you need to go read the contents of the bills they propose and vote on in Congress.

    What are they for?
    Hatred of Obama
    Repeal of the ACA
    Repeal of Dodd/Frank
    Tax cuts for the wealthy because the Bush tax cuts just didn't make them rich enough
    Privatize everything because corporations always do what's right for the people even if it affects their bottom line
    Always increase defense spending because no matter how much we spend, the boogie man is out there to get us

    Christie is half right. They need to be for something. They do not have better ideas.

    March 6, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  4. ALLuh

    The Tub of Lard has no chance, I hate the GOP more each and every day, they are the ruin of this once great country, all but destroyed the middle class while enriching the 1%. They should be outlawed like the Nazi party, not good for this country.

    March 6, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    CNN had sooooo much fun serving up Grayson to the Teatrolls yesterday and yet they fail to report that video came out of the incident clearly showing his wife is lying.

    March 6, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  6. TomGI

    ""We've got to start talking about what we're for and not what we're against," the Republican governor said."

    None of the tea party candidates will talk about what they are in favor of. And if they try to cloak their beliefs in rhetoric they should be forced to do it on a polygraph. The hidden agenda the tea party supreme leadership believe in would be a dismantling of the American government and creation of an oligarchy run by a few mega billionaires. AND some of these billionaires wouldn't even be American citizens. They will definitely have a militia to covert to a federal police force which would keep dissenters in line. And it may not be US military troops. Even the token tea party politicians would be ousted once the system is converted to the 'new' regime.

    March 6, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  7. TomGI

    ""Our ideas are better than their ideas""

    Yeah, I hear this a lot from Republicans. What specifically are these 'better ideas'?

    March 6, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "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.

    Indeed....and as is typical of their inability to reason, they then reverse it and believe that the fact that someone hasn't been converted must mean they didn't get the message.

    Newsflash: We got it...it's being rejected more and more and more and more every day. Enjoy your demographic Armageddon.

    March 6, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Devon

    It's hypocritical that democrats have demonized Christie and tainted him guilty without proof that he was involved in the bridge closing. But, the IRS having admitted they attacked over 300 conservative groups and people on Obama's enemy list is somehow not a scandal at all. I'm not a fan of Christie, but anyone can see this from a mile away.
    ----------------------------
    Well, you need to take a closer look. You missed something that's very important. At least five people from Christie's innermost circle are now unemployed.

    March 6, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. The Russian Bear Speaks

    Now there is a powerful man that would cause the Russian Bear to think twice before dining on neighbors.

    March 6, 2014 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. Bob19006

    Republicans don't have standards?? How about Democrats... lets see, Obama grew up with a mentor/ father figure in Hawaii who was a Communist and his mother was at least a sympathizer. he lived with a rich grandmother VP of a band and went to rich kids private school wherehe readily admits he smoked a lot of pot and did hard drugs. All his high school and college records are sealed. He relocates to Chicago, a city known to be a run by a combination of crooks, Democrats, Communists, union thugs and gangsters. Slumlord gangster Tony Resko helped him buy his gated community house house. He won his 1st primary election by playing dirty tricks against his Democrat opponent. I believe that 3 mayors of Chicago have gone to jail and the Governor who tried to sell Obama's Senate seat. need I go on?

    March 6, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  12. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    There'll be a warm reception in hell, too.

    March 6, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  13. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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?"

    They stand for lies. One lie after another lie. It is the only way for them to win elections anymore.

    March 6, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  14. blakenaustin

    This is naivity and stupidity on the part of the GOP. Christie is a RINO. He is not a conservative. He is another John McCain. The GOP will lose again in 2016 if he is their presidential nominee.

    March 6, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. John

    Yes, the Democrats are intolerant of those that are intolerant where the Republicans will tolerate a few people that are not intolerant mixed in with their intolerant base. Why can't the Democrats be more inclusive of those that are intolerant of their freedom. Mixed nuts. Christie is invited this year simply because they think he has a better chance than anything else they have. No matter he has the same policies he has when he was not welcome, it is never about policy with these people. Win at all cost, they would nominate Satan himself if he would just bad mouth the Democrats and do well in their polls.

    March 6, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. Boo

    Alluh – I totally agree.

    March 6, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. sal

    Christie is an arrogant man. Better than Hillary, but not much better.

    March 6, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  18. tom l

    @Sniffit,
    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.
    ====

    Lol. Yeah, you reaaaallly schooled me. You've been a little sloppy lately, Sniffit. So, in my post, the one you are quoting, I said: " 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." So you're wrong there in your assumption. I have, on several occasions brought up how inane and pathetic it is to ever use Hitler to make a point. It's disgusting. I also never ever said that Clinton is saying Putin is Hitler, another complete misstatement of what I said...very sloppy. I said that when you use Hitler in any way to make a comparison/reference you are in fact then making someone defend why they are not Hitler. That doesn't help the situation, it inflames it. I know you know how I feel with regards to foreign intervention so I have credibility with my consistency on that front. Her comparison and your defense of it is offensive to me and you can't tell me I'm wrong to be offended...that's the way I feel and I find it incredibly insensitive to politicize the deaths of 10 million people to score a political point. It's shameful. Does Putin have concentration camps? Is Putin invading multiple countries or just one which was actually a part of the USSR quite recently? Is Putin ethnically cleansing a country and speaking of a master race? When those things are going on perhaps there might be validity to compare to Hitler. But just because Putin said something that Hitler said does not a fair comparison make. And how dare you say I'm playing the "Jew card". That might be the most racist and offensive comment you have ever said. I'm not playing any card. I am no victim. I haven't seen Fair nor smith nor Yolanda nor consistent conservative poster on here make reference to Obama and Hitler and if they did I would call them on that. But you, on the other hand, have once again shown your true colors. The only one with faux outrage is you because the only outrage that comes from you is directed towards repubs. You only care about WHO says things and not WHAT the content is. I think you honestly owe me an apology for your "Jew card" comment. And to show how asinine you are, you are trying to equate from some idiot howling at the moon on the CNN ticker to what Hillary Clinton says to the entire world. Wow dude. You lost lots of credibility on this one.

    March 6, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. Quixote

    Now that has proved himself a bona fide criminal and massive liar conservatives know he is one of them.....

    Look for the federal indictments somewhere around May. They should have the evidence and charges together around then.

    March 6, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. Sherri

    Oh, so last year Christie was not conservative enough. Now that he is being looked at for corruption, he is good to go with CPAC.

    March 6, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    """Our ideas are better than their ideas""

    Yeah, I hear this a lot from Republicans. What specifically are these 'better ideas'?"

    ===
    Right about then is when you get the "you'll have to elect me first before I tell you" line.

    March 6, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "Lol. Yeah, you reaaaallly schooled me. You've been a little sloppy lately, Sniffit. "

    No I haven't. You're trying to change the subject and insist on your little tirade about Hitler comments despite the rank hypocrisy of your doing so. Tha's fine. Make yourself look foolish. I really don't care. Blah blah blah all the other stuff Hitler did blah blah blah...except Clinton wasn't talking about any of that, nor was she doing what your conservative buddies do on a daily and repeated basis on this site and all over the intertubes. She was very clearly not trying to say "Putin is Hitler." All she said was that, because Putin was using the same justifications for his invasion as Hitler used, it was causing added alarm among the EU states. YOu can try to make the big speech about all the evil Hitler did...but it is all irrelevant, because the fact remains that Clinton was NOT trying to compare Putin to Hitler in that manner. Perhaps you should go look at what she said and read it several more times over and over and over again until you can comprehend it IN CONTEXT instead of FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER throwing a faux outrage hissy fit over use of the word Hitler in politics. She wasn't doing anything even remotely close to what the conservatives do to Obama and for you to try to pretend that she was is dishonest.

    March 6, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. Dead Bear

    Let's see... "We're better than them", states' rights, and plead the Fifth. Then he goes on to blame the media, Obama, and the poor... Wow, the fat nightmare really is a Republican!

    March 6, 2014 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "But just because Putin said something that Hitler said does not a fair comparison make"

    Again, she was not calling Putting "Hitler." She was explaining why Putin's justifications for invasion were ringing alarm bells in EU. And she was right.

    Now, let's make the comparison..."Obama, the socialist dictator just like Hitler."

    See the difference? OF course you do. You just can't admit you got called out for being wrong about what Clinton was saying...because she clearly wasn't trying to slap a label on Putin.

    March 6, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    "I haven't seen Fair nor smith nor Yolanda nor consistent conservative poster on here make reference to Obama and Hitle"

    LOL. That doesn't even pass the giggle test....can't believe you just said that. They do it CONSTANTLY and all you did was name names of people who tend not to. There are plenty of others who do it and it's not like it's not blatant and easy to find.

    March 6, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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