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Chris Christie: I Can Work With Democrats

Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may not officially be running for president—yet—but he laid out a strategy for winning over blue-state voters during a breakfast speech this morning at the Georgia Republican convention at the Classic Center.

Christie was noncommittal when reporters asked him whether he’s running. In his speech, however, he made a case for a more inclusive party that’s more open to compromise.

He bragged about his record as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, saying that he raised a record amount of money, helped defend incumbent Republicans in eight of nine states that President Barack Obama had won twice and helped put Republicans into office in Democratic states like Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois. The last he called his “gift” to Obama, who started his political career in Chicago.

“Thirty-one states are governed by Republican governors, and that’s good for America, really good,” he said.

Back home in New Jersey, Christie said he inherited a state that was “in awful shape” in 2010 after decades of Democratic rule. He said he eliminated an $11 billion deficit by cutting 8,500 government jobs, more than 100 programs and $2.5 billion in discretionary spending, leading to 185,000 private sector jobs during his administration. He reformed pensions, weakened tenure and vetoed Planned Parenthood funding, he said. And unlike in Georgia, he “didn’t have the luxury of a Republican legislature,” he said.

“I don’t wake up in the morning thinking I can get everything I want,” he said. “But that shouldn’t stop you from getting everything you can.”

He criticized Republicans who “hold your breath and wait for the world to turn. You’ve got to make the world turn,” he said.

Christie was re-elected in 2013 with 61 percent of the vote, including majorities among female and Hispanic voters—traditionally Democratic constituencies. “Our ideas can sell everywhere if we include everybody,” he said.

Christie criticized Obama’s handling of the economy, calling it “the most lifeless recovery in the post-World War II era,” and jabbed at the president for taking credit for a falling unemployment rate.

“People are saying, ‘I know you’ve created jobs, Mr. President. I have three of them,’” Christie said to laughter.

And he called for honesty in the debate about entitlement spending, although he did not offer a solution to projected Social Security and Medicare insolvency. Nonetheless, he said that’s an area where politicians have been unwilling to shoot straight with voters.

“People say a lot of things about me, good and bad, but they’ll never say this: ‘I wonder what Chris Christie is thinking,’” he said.

He spent much of the speech discussing foreign policy—an unusual topic for a governor who’s not running for Senate or president. His blunt talked continued. He criticized the Obama Administration for showing what he called “weakness” in Syria, Crimea and the Ukraine, and said Vladimir Putin is taking advantage of it, even raising the specter of Russia renewing its Cold War push into Europe. And he took Obama to task for “public abuse” of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.