Chris Christie Tells Michigan Republicans Obama Is Failing at Leadership

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to a group of Republicans at the Dallas County Spring Speaker Series February 9, 2015, in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie continued his attacks on President Barack Obama, telling Michigan Republicans that Obama lacks leadership and common sense on foreign policy, the minimum wage and government entitlements.

Christie, considering a 2016 presidential candidacy, told about 800 people gathered at a Republican fundraiser in suburban Detroit to “stand with me and I’ll stand with you,” drawing applause and cheers.

“When America doesn’t lead, bad people with bad intentions lead,” Christie said at the Shelby Township event on Friday night. “We need a leader in the White House.”

Christie, 52, has been courting Republicans and raising money for a possible presidential run, casting himself as a plain-speaking conservative with grassroots appeal. In Macomb County, where Christie appeared, his tough-talking style may appeal to blue-collar Republicans and moderate Democrats and give him a swing-state toehold, said Ed Sarpolus, a Michigan political consultant.

“You have family-value issues there, strong unions, a Catholic base, Tea-Party base and a moderate liberal base,” Sarpolus said in an interview before Christie’s appearance. “It’s a lot like New Jersey. It’s a good test for his message and his themes.”

In the speech Friday, Christie peppered his remarks with the words “common sense” and “blunt.”

Income Inequality

“We need to deal with the problem of income equality, not by raising the minimum wage,” he said. “Do you think there’s a family sitting around table anywhere saying, ’If only our daughter could make a higher minimum wage, all our dreams would be realized’?”

He said Obama has been at turns weak, selfish and insulting in dealing with war, terrorism, Russia, Israel and the propossed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Christie also faulted Obama for calling for new government programs.

“You never hear him talk about entitlements, except to create a new one, which nobody wants, and we need to get rid of in Obamacare,” Christie said.

Christie doesn’t have the reputation among Republicans as the most conservative of candidates, which may be a problem for him in some of the party’s primary races, said Pete Lund, a former Republican state representative who attended the event.

Still, Lund said Christie could do well in Michigan. “His personality will appeal quite well here,” he said. “He’s definitely someone who’s got everybody’s attention.”

‘Reagan Democrats’

Macomb County is 84 percent white, home to the General Motors Co. Technical Center and 155 automotive plants and parts suppliers. The county’s voters were the inspiration for the label “Reagan Democrats” by pollster Stan Greenberg, who found its white, blue-collar, union-member voters abandoning the Democratic Party to support for Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980s

Christie also made appearances this week in Texas and Philadelphia, following trips to California and Florida as the Republican presidential battle begins to take shape.

He’s competing for attention with the formal entry of Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, aggressive fundraising by former Florida governor Jeb Bush and the water-testing of such potential candidates as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Christie’s political action committee, Leadership Matters for America, has attracted wealthy donors, allowing him to travel and increase his visibility. Some have formed a separate super-PAC that could raise unlimited money for a presidential run by Christie.

A March 18 CNN poll showed him tied with Rubio for sixth place among likely Republican candidates. Bush led the pack, followed by Walker.

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