What does this trio of Democratic scourges – Obamacare, raising the minimum wage and teachers' unions – or the question of whether governors or senators make better presidents have to do with tort reform?
Not a thing.
That didn't stop New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, keynote speaker at Tuesday's U.S. Chamber of Commerce summit on legal reform in Washington, from making a provocative presentation that sure sounded like a windup for a presidential bid.
A former U.S. attorney, Christie is now chairman of the Republican Governors Association, trying to help his party win as many as possible of 36 governors' races on the November 4 ballot and in the process whip up a little buzz of his own. Some highlights:
It takes a governor
“I am convinced that the next president of the United States is going to be a governor – and it needs to be,” said Christie, without going so far as to venture which governor he had in mind.
His argument: President Barack Obama shows what can happen when legislators have to learn executive skills on the job and "it has not been great." Of course, his assessment also would give him the upper hand over several would-be primary rivals who are now in the U.S. Senate – such as Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
Mentioned, and not
Christie said 11 of the 36 governors’ races on the ballot are inside margin of error in polls, with the GOP playing defense in five states and offense in six others. So which Republican governors merited a personalized shout-out? Florida's Rick Scott, Michigan's Rick Snyder , Wisconsin's Scott Walker – all of whom are facing tight races. But what about Sam Brownback of Kansas?
Meanwhile, Christie also managed references to Iowa, Ohio, New Mexico and South Carolina, all places where the GOP governors are expected to sail to re-election. What else do they have in common? They're all important states in presidential election calculus.
"You've got to be taking chances in this business," Christie told the U.S. Chamber audience. "You've got to tell people what you think."
Later, he said he'd rather be respected than loved and that his mother had taught him, "If you have the choice between respect and love, pick respect. She was talking to me about women but the fact of the matter is, this applies to politics just as much."
Christie said he was sick of hearing about how Democrats want the federal minimum wage raised to $10 an hour, and sarcastically portrayed an imaginary conversation between two parents saying if only their children could earn a higher minimum wage all would be well. "Is that what parents aspire to for their children?" he said, and accused Obama of "playing to the lowest common denominator."
Christie said voters should "fight" back against the political power of teachers' unions, portraying them as organizations motivated to keep school hours to a minimum and summers free, rather than respond to challenges such as U.S. children losing ground when it comes to math and science readiness.
"It's time to start offending people," Christie said. Americans are "kidding ourselves" if they think the U.S. can stay competitive against other countries without changes to schools. He also shut down a teacher's spouse in the audience who objected to the rant, saying the luncheon Q & A wasn't a debate.
The Affordable Care Act is "a fiction; it doesn't work and it should be repealed," Christie said. Still, he said, Republicans have an obligation to present an alternative. (He did not unveil his own.) "We can't just be against something; we gotta be for something."