On southern road trip, Christie preaches compromise
May 30th, 2014
10:21 PM ET
4 months ago

On southern road trip, Christie preaches compromise

Nashville, Tennessee (CNN) — Chris Christie swept into Tennessee on Friday and did all the things that Chris Christie does best.

He raised a barrel full of money, for the Republican Governors Association and the Tennessee GOP. A consummate political performer, he backslapped his way through two fawning campaign crowds, one in Memphis and one in Nashville, posing for pictures and obliging starstruck Republicans who complimented him on his weight loss.

And of course, he picked a fight — this time with Tennessee’s tea party.

“We don't need people in Washington who stand for divisiveness, so let's not send anybody like that up there,” the New Jersey governor said at a re-election campaign event for Sen. Lamar Alexander, who faces an upstart conservative primary opponent this year. “Let's not start getting dumb.”

The admonishment drew a rebuke from Alexander’s tea party foe, state Rep. Joe Carr, who lashed out at Christie’s “dumb governance” and mocked New Jersey’s multiple credit downgrades and the George Washington Bridge scandal that roiled Trenton earlier this year.

But Carr, like many tea party candidates in the establishment-strikes-back election season of 2014, was punching up. Christie, the likely presidential candidate, was booked as the headline speaker the Tennessee Republican Party’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville on Friday night. Alexander, too, basked in the glow of the crowd. Carr, meanwhile, sat quietly at a table in the audience. He departed right after Christie’s speech.

Christie backed off the “dumb” language in his remarks Friday, which raised more than $700,000 for the state Republican party and attracted more than 1,700 supporters to the Music City Center in downtown Nashville. But he tapped into now well-worn Christie themes of bipartisanship and problem-solving, delivering a plea for compromise in Washington, obliquely attacking tea party ideologues, and pointing to his work with Democrats in New Jersey as a model for the nation.

“We can compromise and we should,” he said. “But we should only comprise from a position of strength, when people know what we stand for and we don’t.” Christie, though, revealed little about what he stands for in terms of policy — instead training his rhetoric on the failures of Washington politicians.

He fired off a salvo against do-nothing political leaders who “put out press releases, go on cable television, bicker with each other and get nothing done.” President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats were certainly a target. But conservative hard-liners in Congress were implicitly in Christie’s cross-hairs as well.

“Who is watching the mess in Washington, D.C., created by both parties, and is looking at that and saying, ‘Hey let’s do that, let’s give that a try!,’” Christie said. “‘Let’s close down the government and not make it work for the people! Let’s not even speak to each other about the issues that are important! Let’s not reform a tax system that’s choking off economic growth! Let’s not have an energy policy that can free us geopolitically and economically for a new era of North American dominance in the world!’” Nobody, he answered.

“I don’t know when compromise became capitulation, but that’s what people in Washington, D.C. seem to think,” he said. “I don’t know when it became wrong to talk to the people on the either side, to respect them and become their friends.”

Christie pointed to Tennessee’s two Republican senators — Alexander and Bob Corker, a pair of occasional deal-makers who preceded him in the program — as “an example in the Senate for what our country needs to be doing.” (He did not extend the praise to several conservative House Republicans from Tennessee, including Marsha Blackburn and Chuck Fleischmann, who came on stage later.)

Christie’s three-stop tour of Tennessee — he also showed up at a Nashville barbecue restaurant with Gov. Bill Haslam, up for re-election this year — was his first public foray into the American South as a potential White House contender. At the Memphis event Friday morning, Christie conceded that his political sway in the region was probably limited.

A reporter asked him why he wasn’t in nearby Mississippi endorsing Sen. Thad Cochran, another establishment-backed incumbent with a tea party fight on his hands. "To tell you the truth I don't know if an endorsement from the governor of New Jersey would help anyone of them," Christie responded.

Later, in Memphis, a reporter asked Christie how a perceived moderate from the northeast would fare in Tennessee — a state that boasts thriving urban centers but still maintains a culturally conservative bent. “I don’t worry about those things,” he said. “I think people judge by who you are and what you’ve done.”

Christie still radiated the kind of star power that elevated him to national prominence after his first election in 2009. He was mobbed as he worked his way through Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant alongside Haslam, at one point jovially crossing paths with a boozy, cowboy-hat-wearing bachelorette party. He fielded praise about his weight loss, posed for pictures, and welcomed offers from out-of-state tourists to come visit their states.

The governor was greeted with a respectful, but not passionate, standing ovation as he strode onto the stage at the Statesmen’s Dinner. His speech, in which he called himself a “Republican conservative governor,” drew the third largest audience in the dinner’s history, behind headliners Vice President Dick Cheney in 2002 and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1997. Earlier in the day, he held a batch of fundraising meetings that raised $500,000 for the Republican Governors Association, the political group he chairs.

He was also on the receiving end of kind words from Corker, Alexander, Tennessee GOP Chairman Chris Devaney and Haslam, who vouched for Christie’s character as a family man.

“I have gotten to know him as a governor,” Haslam told the audience. “He has truly has become a friend.”


Filed under: Chris Christie • Tennessee
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. J.V.Hodgson

    OK star struck and weight loss what on earth do they have with his intellectual, policies or ideology to fix unemployment Debt and budget deficits??l
    Maybe just one time CNN will spend as many paragraphs as the above on a democratic Senator or potential Presidential candidate with such eulogistic and favorable comments.
    Regards,
    Hodgson

    May 31, 2014 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  2. Richard in Houston

    Scandal and credit downgrades. It no wonder these things are happening in his state. Does he ever work? Instead of gov erning he is playing celeberty and fund raising. All he does is take vacations paided by other people, eat and give silly speaches. If I was a resident of New Jersey I would be screaming for him to be impeached for job abandonment. If I spent that much time away from my job I would be fired! Isn't that what the RWNJ scream when ever the president goes one of these events. Crickets from the right as usual.

    May 31, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  3. A Kickin` Donkey

    Christie talks a good game but has never demonstrated the proclivity to work together. He knows how to bully his way around but he compromises the same way Tony Soprano compromised and the nation doesn`t need that in a leader.

    You`ll notice he says compromise from "a position of strength". Christie wouldn`t know what to do to motivate & lead people when he lacked formal authority over them or didn`t have "pork barrel spending" with which to a) bribe them; or b) withhold from them illegally [as he has done with Hoboken mayor Zimmer].

    We don`t have to wonder IF this is how he would conduct himself. We KNOW he has previously. Tony Soprano visits Trenton.

    May 31, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. luke,az

    Indictments are on the horizon for Chris Krispy.

    May 31, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. MaryM

    Ha, Krispy preaches compromise while he runs his state like a mob boss. No thanks Krispy, you will never be POTUS

    May 31, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  6. jboh

    You are still a bully. Spin speak won't change that.

    May 31, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  7. just asking

    luke,az
    Indictments are on the horizon for Chris Krispy
    -–

    based on no evidence? so our justice system has been totally corrupted by the democrats? just like the irs.

    May 31, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  8. Hillary Clinton: The Last Nail in the Coffin of the USA

    How can you compromise with Democrats that want to take every penny I make and give it to their lazy supporters?

    May 31, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  9. Winston Smith

    How about this? Seems when a republican speaks they talk of compromise. What they mean is if you are a member of the working class, you compromise. If you are a member of the wealthy, you get the spoils of the compromise made by the workers.

    May 31, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  10. Bill from GA

    Hillary Clinton: The Last Nail in the Coffin of the USA – " How can you compromise with Democrats that want to take every penny I make and give it to their lazy supporters? "

    How can you compromise with Republicans who want to take every penny you make and give it to their rich supporters, and Big Business?

    Seems to me we need compromise on both sides.

    May 31, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. Jim Harper

    The old republicans only are for the rich statements are ridiculous! Every member of congress is at least a millionaire. Look it up. America needs to wake up! They keep us busy arguing over blue and red, liberal and conservative, left and right – what really have they changed? Please don't say gay marriage because the courts are taking care of all that! I am sick of all of them! Another issue if you are not aware in 2012 we had 151 congressmen and women who has invested in defense contractors. Meaning every time they sent an American soldier into combat they made money.

    May 31, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. t

    .and again..Christie speaks the TRUTH............................and Tea Party types sour on it........

    May 31, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  13. don in albuquerque

    just asking
    "based on no evidence"? What evidence is there that Hillary was responsible for the four Benghazzzzzzziiiiii deaths? None. But it did happen on her watch; ergo, she is responsible; ergo the sham hearings continue. The bridge closure did happen on Christie's watch; ergo..................

    May 31, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. millennialelephants

    Reblogged this on millennialelephants and commented:
    Christie concedes his limited political pull in the American South, what does that mean for how he'll run a national campaign for president (if he runs of course)? Given his commitment to compromise, moderation, pragmatism he'll skip the primary election rhetoric and run a general election strategy from day one. Would Romney have been better of running as who he was instead of what he thought he needed to be?

    May 31, 2014 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  15. stopthemadness101

    Screw both parties. We need a party that represents the middle.

    May 31, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  16. roro

    This man passes laws and then breaks them himself. It's yet another year when the public employees pension is shorted and then blamed on them. Yet he continues breaks for the wealthy. Be glad, be very glad, you don't live in New Jersey. While he's out roaming around the country raising money and promoting himself, "Rome" is burning.

    May 31, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. Gunderson

    UM, Yes,
    Liberal's want to do great things. They just want to do it with other peoples money. So far they have run up a 17.7 Trillion Dollar Federal Debt. Clue: Those that have the money make the rules. Don't like it? Start your own business. Waiting for someone to give you a handout? Good luck.

    May 31, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. Tom

    And this is why Christie, even if he survives the "bridgegate" scandal, has no hope winning the GOP nomination for the 2016 Presidential election. A big part of the Republican party puts ideology above reason and would rather fight to the death than compromise to actually get something done.

    May 31, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. Chris-E...al

    @ Jboh why do you think C. C is a bully ? Why cause he fired someone and dont do patty cake boo hoo wittle one nanny make it better .

    May 31, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  20. Mr. Balls

    What Christie should have said is "let's stop being dumb".

    May 31, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  21. YUCK

    something isnt right here this criminal mindset christie gets away with murder and keeps is job even though he got caugh on the spot and denies everything,and Shinseki admits and tells the truth and was told too resign??i smell inequality and injustices here.

    May 31, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. emskadittle

    isn't the cute the big rhino is taking on the teaparty

    May 31, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  23. Marie MD

    Has this guy always traveled so much? Does he ever do anything besides cause traffic jams?
    Compromise? Big liar!
    As far as the 1% . . . . . . they Re against helping the poor and middle class and a LOT of them don't think the middle class and poor should receive any help, including healthcare.
    The rich don't care because their lives don't revolve around where the next meal comes from,

    May 31, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Charles Hawkins

    Obviously his speech was intended for people that are too smart for membership in the Tea Party.

    May 31, 2014 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  25. Lee Eng

    What a pig cow hippo the best the establishment republicans have to offer. the only thing he can do is attack the tea party because the tea party.

    May 31, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
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