June 20th, 2014
10:01 AM ET
9 years ago

Chris Christie's big day

updated at 1:00pm ET Friday

Washington (CNN) - It's an important day for Chris Christie.

Of the nine potential Republican presidential candidates speaking at the fifth annual Road to the Majority conference, which is organized by Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition, one may be in the glare of the spotlight more than the others. And that's Christie, the pragmatic conservative governor of New Jersey who's anything but a crowd favorite among some on the right.

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Later Friday, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association heads to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire to help raise money for the GOP's leading gubernatorial contender in this year's election.

Both stops may give us some clues regarding just how serious Christie is about a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Christie's 'pro-life' message

The Faith and Freedom conference, a three day confab at a hotel in the nation's capital, is one of the largest annual gatherings of social conservative voters, who are a key part of the Republican Party's base.

Christie, who was well received by the crowd, touted his credentials on important social issues, and framed the issue of drug addiction and treatment in a social conservative way.

"I believe that every life is a gift from God that's precious and needs to be protected," Christie told the audience to applause.

Christie then discussed his pro-life stance in regards to drug addiction and treatment for non-violent offenders.

"When we say we're pro-life, we need to be pro-life for the entire life. We need to stand up for the hurt and the wounded," Christie said. "From the womb until natural death, we need to be there even for those who stumble and fall, to be there to lift them up. To me that's the true meaning of being pro-life."

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This was Christie's first address to a major gathering of social conservatives. Earlier this year he was well received at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the granddaddy of conservative gatherings. He wasn't invited to the 2013 edition of CPAC, in part because of his praise of President Barack Obama's response to Superstorm Sandy, which had caused massive damage in the Garden State.

In the most recent CNN/ORC International poll of Republicans' choice for the next nomination, Christie was at 10% among self-described moderates, but just 6% among those who labeled themselves conservative.

Christie's standing on the right

Reed, a longtime leader of the social conservative movement, said it's important for Christie to speak at the Faith and Freedom event.

"If he's serious about seeking the Republican presidential nomination, this is a constituency that he cannot ignore," Reed told CNN.

Reed pointed out that Christie does line up with social conservatives on many key issues.

"He's the first pro-life governor of New Jersey since Roe v. Wade. He's line-item vetoed state funding for Planned Parenthood every year he's been governor. He vetoed a same-sex marriage bill that the Democratic legislature sent him. And he's a faithful Catholic. We don't agree with him on every issue, but we wanted to give him an opportunity to share his story and make his case. I think people may be surprised at the reception he gets."

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Christie's appearance at the conference may be a signal that he's getting more serious about a 2016 run.

A GOP consultant with ties to the Christie camp said the governor's address is significant because it's a signal that "he's not ceding any ground with this constituency, so if he decides to do something in 2016, he going to compete with all the wings of the Republican Party, and that includes the conservative flank."

"It sends a signal that he's not going to back away from folks who do not necessarily agree with him on all the issues. One of the hallmarks of his political brand is the he's not afraid to engage with people who may not agree with him all the time."

Christie, along with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, is one of the two keynote speakers at the Road to Majority conference. The consultant, who asked for anonymity to speak more freely, added that's significant because it shows Christie can land an important speaking slot "even with a constituency that, at least on paper, doesn't line up with his views. That speaks to his political power, but also the interest in what he has to say."

Visit to key primary state

After his speech Christie heads to New Hampshire, where he'll raise money for Walt Havenstein, the leading GOP gubernatorial candidate to take on Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan in November.

The visit is Christie's first since the 2012 election to the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House. And if he does run for the GOP nomination, winning the Granite State's primary may be crucial for Christie.

"New Hampshire is looking forward to getting its first look at Chris Christie in almost two years. Enthusiasm for his visit seems to be somewhat muted, but there remains a great deal of curiosity about him here as a future presidential candidate. More than anyone else, Gov. Christie's path to the GOP nomination in 2016 runs through New Hampshire, so leveraging early visits like this will be critical to his success," a veteran Granite Sate based Republican strategist told CNN.

While Friday's swing through New Hampshire is a quick one, Christie may be back soon again. GOP sources in the state tell CNN the governor may make a return trip to New Hampshire in July.

CNN's Ashley Killough and John King contributed to this report


soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. Al-NY,NY

    I don't know who all of the other eight potential candidates from the GOP might be, but I hope that Chritie runs and gets the nomination. That way I can hope that if a Republican wins in 2016 (and since over the past 100 years or so it frequently happens that the when one party holds the office for eight years then it changes) that we will have a president who is reasonable, willing to work with others, and does not dogmatically follow a knee-jerk right-wing agenda. Unfortunately, given that the GOP seems to ever increasingly demonize people like him, he will be buried by the far right early in the process.

    just to get the nomination he will go the same route as McCain and Romney....tack so far to the right to appease the zealots that he will ruin any chances with anyone except the drones in the general election

    June 20, 2014 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. cf

    Christie is too moderate of a conservative to even get his party's nomination. All his primary opponents have to do is run the footage of him walking with Obama post-Sandy ad nauseam, and the extremist who dictate the Republican party will reject him soundly.

    If Christie tries to counter this by running to the extreme right, he may win the GOP primary, but at the cost of alienating undecided, moderate, and middle-of-the-road voters which make up the majority of the population; and as a result will lose soundly in the general election.

    This is the conundrum faced by all Republican candidates since the inception of the extremist "tea party," and will continue to be the reason why Republican candidates cannot and will not win major general elections. But it is a problem they caused for themselves.

    June 20, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  3. BeverlyNC

    There are no "pro-life" Republicans. All they care about are small human cells unviable outside the body. One a child is born, an adult needs help, education needs funding, charity groups are in desperate need of funds, the disabled need support, the elderly need their earned Social Security and Medicare – Republicans could care less whether they live or die. They degrade the poor, call them names, want to starve them, take away school lunches for children who probably only get that one whole meal a day, ignore the homeless who most are mentally ill, veterans, and are in desperate need of diagnosis and care to get back on their feet.
    Do you think these large ostentatious churches would dare open their doors to the needy, the homeless, or programs for children? No, those church buildings are for Sunday business networking opportunities.
    There are no Republican "Christians" either. They defy the teachings of the Bible. Jesus was poor. He lived among the poor, the sick, the helpless, and ministered to them. He very clearly instructed us to treat them as we would Him. Sorry. Republicans have not made it to the New Testament yet. They live in the OT where you judge, punish, and cherry pick verses out of context to feed their inhumanity to others.
    Christianity is not under attack. America is under attack by the self-righteous fake "Christians" Jesus would not even know. They are the ones taking away the rights of the People, the funding for the "least of us", and "piling up their treasures on Earth".
    The true children of God are those Republicans condemn, stomp on, and try to leave with nothing.

    June 20, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. CryBabies

    @Just saying....Bada Bing!

    June 20, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. Daddy Mac

    In reply to John, his comment centered around population explosion and apparently abortion is a method to control population. This is a sad commentary on how people think, maybe one of those aborted babies could cure cancer.....oh wait, then more people might live........Maybe John should have been aborted!

    June 20, 2014 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  6. Hypocrite Conservatrads

    Round MOund of Messiah!

    June 20, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  7. Pander Bear

    Maybe Christie threw the Obama caricature in the urinal.

    June 20, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    Is that a new picture of the NJ gov?
    He can lose, and should, another whole person and he will still not be president. I didn't think convicted felons could run.

    June 20, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  9. Xplain_plz

    If Christie hopes to win the GOP nomination, pointing out the hipocrisy of the faux Christians of the religious right isn't going to help him

    June 20, 2014 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  10. jeremy

    Hey Mr. Christie, I am glad you sealed the deal for Obama a couple years back, but sorry, I don't want you as president. How do you think that elderly person would feel about your bridge ordeal now? They're dead because of your bully ways. You're a politician, so I know you're a man without any conscious, but Hillary will beat any one of you R's who decide to run. So I am happy that we won't have the crazies on the far right anywhere near the Oval Office. Hillary is not perfect, but I'll take her over any fox news president!

    June 20, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    chris christie is in too much hot water

    June 20, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  12. DougM

    The cognitive dissonance required to hold pro-life and pro-death-penalty views has always bothered me greatly. I hope this is a sign of things to come for Republicans, and I'm pleased to be surprised that Christie seems to have a more rational position than most on the subject.

    June 20, 2014 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  13. cbp

    This group is most interesting. If you do something they do not like then you are not invited to speak at their meetings. Why would anyone want to speak to a group of people who demand that everyone hold the same views as they do. So much for diversity! Perhaps this is part of the problem with the GOP right now. You need to follow along with everything that is said or written and you must not speak about what you might believe in or might want for this country..

    June 20, 2014 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  14. Robert N. constant

    Chris Christie is a bully and a ruthless opportunist who uses threats and intimidation to advance himself and his cronies. He has not yet disperse 75% of the Super Storm Funds to people who need to rebuild their homes. and has denied funding to Jersey mayors who do not support his development pals. Google "Chris Christie mafia" and you will see the tip of the iceberg. Then try "Chris Christie Bridgegate" Then research "Chris Christie Bernie Madoff." Then check out "Chris Christie under funds NJ State Employees Pension Fund" It goes on and on. As Governor he has mismanaged NJ which is aboput to have its bond rating degraded. Please Impeach Chris Christie to stop the damage he is doing to the State of New Jersey.

    June 20, 2014 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  15. DJ Reality

    You want to know something about the Faith and Freedom Conference. Not one word about being Christian was spoken. What happened to the teachings of Jesus Christ? They sure were not present here. Sad.

    June 20, 2014 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  16. glennrobert

    President? Maybe! Just keep him away from the highways.

    June 21, 2014 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  17. Getoverit

    @Marie MD
    I didn’t think convicted felons could run.
    Really? When was he convicted of anything? Seems you're the only one that knows about it. Please share.

    June 21, 2014 04:20 am at 4:20 am |
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