In 2012, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Chicago. The Republican governor began his speech saying that New Jersey may have “suffered” under his Democratic predecessors, but “today [it] is a state that is leading the way in this country to show that government can be put back under control and work for the people that it’s supposed to be working for.”
Former Gov. Jim McGreevey resigned in 2004 after he came out as a “gay American” and admitted to an extramarital affair. Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine was often criticized for his management of the state budget.
Christie is of course embroiled in his own scandal now as a special committee in New Jersey investigates whether the governor had knowledge that one of his former staff members ordered lane closures on the George Washington bridge. Investigators are probing allegations that the closures were a result of possible political retribution.
Though Gov. Christie was not invited to CPAC last year, he returned to the conference stage Thursday morning in Washington, D.C., and echoed many of the same themes of his 2012 keynote speech.
In 2012 he touted his electability saying, “I bring greetings from New Jersey, a state up until 2009 hadn’t elected a Republican statewide in 12 years, still hasn’t elected a Republican to the United States Senate since 1972, has 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.” On Thursday he said, “When they said it couldn’t be done, now twice, for the first time since Roe V. Wade, New Jersey has elected a pro-life governor.”
An anecdote that made its way into both speeches – and even kicked off his CPAC address this week – was that of Christie choosing to attend the New Jersey Firefighters Convention after cutting benefits and pensions for public workers in his state.
Christie admited in both CPAC speeches that he was not well-received and even “heartily booed” at the convention. The crowd eventually turned around, only after he told them, “I understand you are angry and I understand that you feel deceived. And I understand why you’re booing – the only thing I don’t understand is why you are booing the first person to ever come here and tell you the truth. The truth is if you aren’t going to change these pensions, you aren’t going to collect them.” Christie ended the story in his 2012 speech by saying “It’s time to tell the truth to people, not to keep lying to them and telling them what they want to hear.”
Christie also told both CPAC crowds that conservatives have one thing going for them that the Democrats don’t have.
In 2012 he said, “I remind my staff of this every day, and I want to remind you all today, the most powerful thing on our side is this: we’re right and they’re wrong. So let’s not make it any more complicated.” Thursday, he challenged his party to “start talking about what we’re for and not continuing to rail against what we’re against…because our ideas are better than their ideas.”