Christie in the Iowa lion's den
© Getty Images

DES MOINES, Iowa — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) pitched himself as a true conservative to Iowa's most faithful, earning grudging applause from a skeptical audience as he promised he would always be honest with them.

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"If I was too blunt, too direct, too loud and too New Jersey for Iowa, then why do you people keep inviting me back?" he said, touting his friendship with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the event's organizer and a hero to the base. "Im here today because I've been a friend to Iowa and Iowa's been a friend to me."

Christie repeatedly asked the state's activists to give him a chance, spending a good chunk of his speech aimed at convincing them he's sufficiently socially conservative. He talked about why he is anti-abortion and described how he vetoed his state's gay marriage bill. 

"Being honest... is never a liability," he said. "The notion that our party must abandon our belief in the sanctity of life to be competitive in blue states is simply not true and I am living proof of that fact."

Christie also argued that the party had to broaden its appeal to win nationwide, touting his own high performance with Hispanics, independents, women and African Americans in his last election.

"If our conservatism is really going to succeed it must be able to defend itself in every part of this country," he said. 

There were some empty seats by the time the governor took the stage at the end of a long day of marathon speeches. But those who stayed seemed to at least be willing to hear him out.

Christie got an early assist from a pro-immigration protestor — the audience came to its feet and roared to defend him, as it had to back former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) a few minutes prior.

Christie also asked for voters not to count him out because of one topic or another — and all but announced his campaign, referring to himself as a candidate.

"I'm sure you won't agree with me or any other candidate on every single issue...  If you want a candidate that agrees with you 100 percent of the time, let me give you some advice. Go home and look in the mirror," he said to laughs and applause. "I can tell you that you'll always know who I am, you'll always know what I bleive and you'll always know where I stand."