New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made the case that his political success in a Democrat-dominated state can offer lessons for his party and also potentially be translated to the national level during a speech today to the Republican National Committee.
As he pursues a re-election bid he’s favored to win in November, “we’re going to learn things this year that we’re going to be able to apply to the races we’re going to have in 2014 and beyond,” he said in the speech in Boston recorded by Bloomberg News.
Christie, citing his endorsements from trade unions, also said Republicans should try to pit private-sector and public-sector unions against each other.
“We as a party better get smart on this issue because those men and women who work for those private-sector unions know that the way they get to work and make more money and put food on the table for their families is private-sector job growth,” he said. “We as a political party have an opportunity to drive a wedge in the union movement. And the laboratory where that is happening right now is in my state.”
Christie, 50, left some in the room with the impression that those lessons also could be translated to 2016, when he’s viewed as a potential presidential candidate.
“I took all that to mean, ‘I’m going to run in 2016 and I’ve demonstrated a winning formula. If you want to win and don’t just care about ideology, I’m your candidate,’” Steve Munisteri, the Republican chairman in Texas, told reporters after the speech.
Christie made his remarks to Republican leaders searching for a path forward following a demoralizing loss to President Barack Obama in 2012. The party is seeking to revamp its messaging and policies to better appeal to minorities and women.
“If we don’t win, we don’t govern,” Christie said. “I am going to do anything that I need to do to win.”
Christie, who defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine in 2009 to win his first term, argued some in his party seem more interested in debates than election victories.
“I think we have some people who believe our job is to be college professors,” he said.
The governor took a veiled shot at one of his potential rivals for the 2016 Republican nomination, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who in a speech early this year called on the party to stop being “stupid.”
“I know there are a lot of different opinions in this party and that’s good,” Christie said. “We want to have a lot of different opinions. But I’m not going to be one of these people who come and call our party stupid.”
Citing endorsements he’s received from Hispanic and black groups in his re-election bid, Christie said Republicans can make gains among demographic groups that have trended toward Democrats.
“You don’t have to sacrifice your base voters to win Latino votes,” he said. “You don’t have to sacrifice your base voters to win a share of African-American votes. You don’t have to sacrifice your base voters to be able to win the building trade votes. You don’t have to sacrifice your base voters to close a gender gap and turn it in the other direction. You don’t have to.”
Known as a sometimes unconventional Republican, Christie appeared to be working to mend his relationship with party stalwarts, spending roughly 30 minutes after his speech shaking hands and posing for photos with RNC members. Even as his profile has grown nationally, he’s angered parts of the party.
That ill-will has come in part from appearances he has made with Obama and former President Bill Clinton, during which he offered praise for both Democrats.
In June, Christie appeared on stage in Chicago with Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting. Christie in late May appeared for the second time with Obama for a tour of the New Jersey shore to inspect the recovery from last October’s Hurricane Sandy.
The governor drew criticism from some in his party immediately after the storm by praising Obama’s handling of the initial federal response -- which some said gave the president a pre-election boost in his race against Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
At year’s end, some party colleagues also were aggrieved when he criticized U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other Republicans in the chamber for delays in approving federal storm assistance.
The Democratic National Committee reacted to Christie’s RNC speech by panning him and his party.
“From economic growth to education funding and supporting women’s health programs, Chris Christie doesn’t have a record to run on -- it’s a record to run from,” Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Michael Czin said in a statement. “From Republicans in Congress’ unwillingness to support commonsense immigration reform with a path to citizenship to Governor Christie’s abysmal record of job creation - the Republican Party is failing to lay out a positive vision that will help ensure a better bargain for middle-class Americans.”