New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) issued a rallying cry on Thursday for conservatives to stand up for their ideals and win elections by touting Republican governors as a model for the nation.
The stakes for his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which he wasn't invited to last year, were high for Christie as he addressed a typically hostile crowd. But a strong performance was especially critical at a time when his political future is perhaps the most uncertain it’s ever been, as he grapples with an ongoing investigation into the George Washington Bridge scandal that has rocked his administration.
But he seemed to exceed expectations, receiving an enthusiastic response from the ballroom full of activists, entering and exiting the stage to a standing ovation and whoops from the crowd.
He urged conservatives to “talk about what we’re for, not what we’re against."
“The reason we have to start talking about what we’re for and not continuing to rail against what we’re against is for one simple reason: Our ideas are better than their ideas,” said Christie, to cheers from the crowd.
The Republican Governors Association chairman offered a positive vision for Republican governance, touting the records of GOP governors in blue states as evidence of the efficacy of Republican policies.
And he highlighted his own efforts in New Jersey, a deep-blue state, to cut the budget, trim the government payroll and reform education, and got big cheers for his remark that New Jersey elected a pro-life governor.
In one of his best-received lines, Christie declared: "We don’t have an income inequality problem, we have an opportunity problem in this country."
In a line taken from his inaugural address, Christie declared that if the GOP wants to be the pro-life party, it needs to be the party that's "pro-life when [people] leave the womb as well," urging a need for education reform and a society that creates equal opportunity for people.
And while he focused largely on the accomplishments of Republican governors, he delivered some well-received jabs against Democrats.
He defended the Koch brothers, David and Charles Koch, who have poured millions into attack ads against vulnerable Democrats this cycle, as “two American entrepreneurs who have built a business” and created jobs.
Christie charged that Senate Majority Leader (D-Nev.) Harry Reid, who has attacked the Kochs on the Senate floor in recent weeks, “should get back to work and stop picking on people who are getting things done for this country.”
He said, on social issues, Democrats are “the party of intolerance, not us.”
But Christie refocused, at the close of his speech, on the 2014 elections, even as many in the room were contemplating his 2016 aspirations — which may enjoy a new infusion of life after his Thursday speech.
"We don't get to govern if we don’t win," he said. "Let's come out of this conference resolved to win elections again."