On southern road trip, Christie preaches compromise
May 30th, 2014
10:21 PM ET
8 years 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. Hillary Clinton: The Last Nail in the Coffin of the USA

    How can you compromise with Democrats that want to bankrupt the country and pile $20,30,50 TRILLION in debt on the backs of our kids and grand kids and great grand kids?

    May 31, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  2. Hillary Clinton: The Last Nail in the Coffin of the USA

    How can you compromise with the far left extremist Democrat Party that wants to kill our economy and job creation with their massive government and massive government giveaways funded by oppressive taxes?

    May 31, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. Chris-E...al

    @YUcK Just grow up thats the way real grown men are ! C.C. dont hide or make excusee and lie . I know thats a strange way to be for you try not to tease yourself or others its the weekend .

    May 31, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  4. don in albuquerque

    Hilary Clinton: The Last Nail
    Please name the last GOP president who shrank the size of government. Ding Ding. Times up. There isn't one.
    Please name the number of Jobs created by this GOTP congress. Ding Ding Times up. None.

    May 31, 2014 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. American Worker

    Christie is just another Elitist Progressive.
    Not so different that the Sectarian Elitist.

    Both have their Doctrine to impose upon the whole of the U.S.A.

    May 31, 2014 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  6. Thomas

    The King Fish of New Jersey works the "chitlin' circuit" .

    Give the man a corn dog and a bottle of Rebel Yell !

    May 31, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  7. Getoverit

    Liberals are afraid of Christie because he's willing to work across the aisle. They have no excuses.

    May 31, 2014 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |

    Gov. Christie would bring a breath of fresh air to Washington if elected President . He is no nonsense and all the high powered lobbyist and their missions would be diminished if Gov Christie deemed them to be detrimental to the tax payers of the US. He would get rid of the old stale entrenched pompous democratic politicians like Dirty Harry Reid, Pig Pelosi, big mouth Chuck Schumer, tricky Dick Durbin , money grabber Feinstein and her husband, and the list goes on.

    May 31, 2014 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  9. cbabin2013

    They are all vying to be another NWO Governor. Their philosophy has nothing to do with standing on principles. This is sad at best.

    May 31, 2014 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  10. Portlandtony

    To those who posted: "How can we compromise with .....Democrats who are spending Trillions of $$" , you can start with funding the Staffing levels at the VA to care for the Patriots who sacrificed and gave so much....fighting our foreign wars!!!!!

    May 31, 2014 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  11. martinaustintx

    I've never heard of starting negotiations with an opposing side by saying "I compromise." This guy trusts Democrats more than conservatives. I won't be supporting him for dog catcher.

    May 31, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  12. Ol Sarge army

    The Canadian cannot get on the ballot.

    May 31, 2014 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  13. JAY

    just wait – your guns will be next, then the masses will be defenseless against the government. exactly what the four fathers warned about

    May 31, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  14. Smitty

    Lets list Obumbles achievements
    short list !!!!!

    May 31, 2014 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  15. rebeccatreeseed

    How can you compromise with the plutocracy? Cannot be done. Doesn't matter what their shills say. Pretend Christie is something besides a corporate shill. Okay, he is vindictive.

    June 1, 2014 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  16. Jim

    If the people vote for these 2 Tn senators or Christie they are dumber than they talk. Look at my state Ca.. I am moving back to Tn where most people are not dumb.

    June 1, 2014 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  17. kamarasune

    And he came in dead last in the straw poll...go figure....

    June 1, 2014 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  18. Name Uche Agonsi

    Christie needs to define how a Republican "Compromiser" differs from a Demo under that brand. He (Christie) is getting himself politically confused with party identification, moreso, as any POTUS needs to be for Americans, not for party, fundamentally in decision making. Thats what President Obama does, though misunderstood by party lunatics, and hate-inducing GOP fanatics. Histroy will tell the story better.

    June 1, 2014 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  19. Rino-Be-GONE

    He Lard Axx go back to JORRRSY and close a bridge.

    June 1, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  20. Logician

    Tea Party: best thing going for the Dems! Gots the Repubs all split up and going nowhere.

    June 1, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  21. Funkae

    I wish reporters would ask Obama tough questions instead of the softballs they throw him.. What did you think about your David letterman appearance mr president? Is jay z and Beyoncé sleeping at the White House tomorrow ? Did your wife Michele lose weight cause she looks great?

    June 1, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  22. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    I wonder when he is going to put as much effort in doing the job he get paid to do in New Jersey. Other than raiding the public employee’s pension funds In NJ, he seems to be a full time Republican fund raiser stealing taxpayers blind.

    June 1, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  23. Bucktooth

    This is crazy! This guy is still in scandal like everyone else, yet it's o.k..he blamed it on somebody else! All those poor people in the red states have nothing and still vote for these clowns..Bush administration created tax issue with their 12 year fake war! Read about it..WOMD..mainstream news won't tell the real story!

    June 1, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  24. michael

    Look at NJ gun laws before you give this guy a vote.

    June 1, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  25. Tony from Oakland

    $20,30,50 trillion of PUBLIC DEBT becomes debt incurred by public citizens to creditors. It is only the Governments role to insure the debt with Federally backed securities to prevent any financial collapse of Capitalism. And any Politician or person who says otherwise is either delusional, a liar or both.
    Government debt is Federal deficit. And presently, the deficit went down from $1.4 trillion in FY2009 to $648 billion in FY2013. Evidently......the Government is spending less. Corporate tax cuts raise debt. Who do you think pays for that Corporate free lunch? Exactly......the American middle class.

    June 1, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
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