New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laid out his ideas for saving the Republican Party at a gathering of the Republican National Committee on Thursday, in remarks that offered sharp criticism of rival Republicans and a window into his own potential 2016 platform.
Christie spoke at length about his record in New Jersey, emphasizing accomplishments like teacher benefit reform and bringing down the Garden State’s budget deficit. Christie’s remarks were closed press, but multiple guests provided quotes and recordings.
“He was highlighting his record in New Jersey, what he has next for his campaign, and his plans for his second term,” said former Romney strategist Russ Schriefer.
According to several sources, Christie’s remarks included jabs at least two other potential 2016 candidates.
“I’m not going to be one of these people who goes and calls our party stupid,” he said in a rebuke to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Jindal made the charge in November and again to the RNC in January, when he encouraged the party to overhaul its messaging and tactics after the 2012 defeat. “We need to stop navel gazing,” Christie said. “There’s nothing wrong with our principles. We need to focus on winning again. There’s too much at stake for this to be an academic exercise. We need to win and govern with authority and courage.”
Christie also appeared to slam Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, with whom he publicly battled last month over the GOP’s foreign policy direction.
“We are not a debating society,” Christie told the 168 members of the committee and other Republican operatives gathered for lunch in a Boston hotel ballroom — a remark received as a continuation of their feud. “We are a political operation that needs to win.”
“See I’m in this business to win,” he continued. “I’m in it to win. I think that we have some folks who believe that our job is to be college professors. College professors are fine I guess. Being a college professor is — they basically spout out ideas but nobody ever does anything about them. For our ideas to matter we have to win. Because if we don’t win, we don’t govern. And if we don’t govern, all we do is shout into the wind.”
Christie’s remarks repeatedly drew loud applause from the audience; the cheers were audible outside the room. “He connects with this group,” said Massachusetts committeeman Ron Kaufman. “This is his team.”
Even frequent critics loved the remarks. Iowa GOP chair A.J. Spiker, a former backer of Ron Paul, called Christie’s performance “really great.”
Christie told an oft-repeated story about the source of his brash and outspoken personality: that on her deathbed his mother said to leave nothing unsaid. The tale that has become something of an origin story for him. He also outlined his electoral success in New Jersey, where he is expected to coast to re-election this fall. Christie reminded members of the RNC that he captures 35% of the vote in New Jersey and has the support of a majority of women in the traditionally Democratic state.
“The emphasis was on electability,” said Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri. “And he made the case that he is electable, so I think you saw a foreshadowing of 2016.”
“His whole pitch was: as a party all you should be thinking about is winning, and look I’ve got the winning formula,” Munisteri recounted. “I took all that to mean: I’m going to be a candidate in 2016. If you want to win…I’m your candidate.”
This post has been updated.