NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie threw red meat to the conservative base in his Thursday CPAC speech, but also made the case for prioritizing electability alongside ideological purity.
“I’ll remind you of just one simple truth in this democracy: we don’t get to govern if we don’t win,” Christie said.
“So please,” he said, “let us come out resolved not only to stand for our principles, but lets come out of this conference resolved to win elections again.”
That is essentially the argument for why Christie should get the Republican nomination in 2016 — while he is not considered the paragon of pure conservative values, he has proven himself to be electable in a blue state like New Jersey.
But Christie, who was given the cold-shoulder last year by the conservative gathering — when Republicans were still smarting over his election-time praise of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy — also at length about his own conservative values, brandishing his pro-life credentials and talking about his efforts to reform New Jersey’s entitlement system.
This year, he seemed to win over the crowd, getting a standing ovation when he took the stage and large amounts of applause throughout his speech. He had no praise for Obama, slamming the president for staying on the sidelines as the federal government bumbles along.
“You see something getting ready to go off the rails and you stay as far away from it as possible … If that’s your attitude, Mr. President, then what the hell are we paying you for?” Christie boomed, to applause.
Christie also focused on his ability to get things done, contrasting the success of Republican governors with the “dysfunction in Washington, DC.”
He painted Congress — whose members include some of his potential 2016 opponents like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. Paul Ryan, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — in the same broad strokes as the “lack of leadership in the White House.” Some of those candidates might be seen as more ideologically pure than Christie, he seemed to say, but emphasized that he was able to get things done.