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Christie Said Not Invited to Speak to Conservative Group

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Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who spoke last year at the Conservative Political Action Conference’s Chicago conclave, wasn’t invited to the group’s 2013 Washington meeting, in part because he praised Democratic President Barack Obama’s leadership during Hurricane Sandy, according to a person familiar with the group’s decision.

Christie also angered CPAC organizers Jan. 2, when he criticized House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, for failing to bring a Sandy aid package to a floor vote, said the person, who asked not to be identified and isn’t authorized to speak publicly about internal group decision-making.

CPAC 2013, scheduled for March 14-16 in Washington, where the group is based, draws some of the Republican Party’s most prominent members, many who espouse a free-market economy and smaller government. Scheduled speakers next month include: Mitt Romney, the defeated 2012 presidential candidate; U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association; and Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate.

Obama and Christie, a first-term Republican seeking re-election in November, toured the state together two days after the Oct. 29 hurricane, and the two spoke on the phone almost daily for weeks. The most devastating Atlantic storm cost New Jersey $36.9 billion, about 16 percent more than its fiscal 2013 budget.

Sandy Aid

The House and Senate ultimately approved a $60.2 billion emergency-spending bill for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The American Conservative Union, which sponsors the Washington event, wouldn’t say why Christie, who has been mentioned as a possible 2016 presidential candidate, wasn’t among a list of speakers scheduled for the meeting.

“We’re still finalizing the schedule and we’ll be announcing new speakers over the next three weeks,” Laura Rigas, a spokeswoman for the union, said by phone. She declined to comment further.

Michael Drewniak and Kevin Roberts, spokesmen for the governor, didn’t respond to phone calls or e-mails for comment on Christie not speaking at CPAC.

Christie, whose approval rating among voters in Quinnipiac University polls has reached a record 74 percent for his handling of the storm, has repeatedly said that party politics has no role in the recovery.

The governor’s praise for Obama was a turnaround from June 2012, when he was a possible Romney running mate chosen to give the conference’s keynote address in Rosemont, Illinois. During that speech, he criticized Obama’s “audacity” for saying state and local governments were moving in the wrong direction, and he draw distinctions between the parties by saying, “We’re right and they’re wrong.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Elise Young in Trenton at eyoung30@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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