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By Jerome Corsi and Garth Kant
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – After a rough season in which he was accused of helping President Obama win re-election and issuing Jersey-style political payback, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie received a standing ovation from the CPAC annual convention of conservatives punctuated by hoots and whistles of approval, demonstrating, if any thing, that he hasn’t lost his star power.
Christie, widely regarded as a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, delighted his audience with a bold declaration that “our ideas are better than their ideas, and that’s what we have to stand up for.”
“We have to start talking about what we are for, not what we are against,” he said.
Christie insisted conservatives need to stop letting establishment media define who they are and what they stand for.
“The most dangerous 10 feet in Washington is between somebody who starts talking and a camera,” he said.
“We have to stop letting the media define who we are and what we stand for.”
He recounted an episode from his experience as governor to demonstrate that sticking with convictions may engender opposition initially, but many will be persuaded when the issue is explained and they see the results.
He recalled that just a few years ago, the New Jersey pension system was $100 million in debt.
“We put in place the types of control that did not make me very popular with the unions in the state,” he said.
When he went to the fire workers union to speak, he said, he was booed when he reached the stage.
Christie told the union workers he understood why they were angry but said, “I just don’t understand why you’re booing the first person who came up here and told you the truth.”
“The truth is that if I don’t make these changes now, you won’t be receiving your pension,” he warned. “In the future you will thank me.”
Christie said that when he left the stage, two-thirds of the audience was cheering.
The New Jersey governor jumped on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for criticizing American entrepreneurs.
“Harry Reid should get back to work and quit railing against American citizens who are creating jobs,” he said.
Christie emphasized that Republican governors “are about getting things done,” not just talking.
“Look at what is happening to Scott Walker in Wisconsin,” he said. “He stood up to the unions and made it voluntary to join the unions, and the union membership is down 60 percent.”
He noted Ohio Gov. John Kasich did the same thing. Michigan, under Gov. Rick Snyder, is now a right-to-work state, and in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has created 450,000 private sector jobs with free enterprise ideas.
In his own state, Christie said, the budget has $2.2 billion less in discretionary spending than it had in 2008 and some 6,000 fewer state employees. Teachers also are being held accountable in the classroom, he said.
“They say it could never be done, but twice now New Jersey has elected a pro-life governor,” he said.
“Tell me the last pro-life Democrat who spoke at a Democratic convention. They are the party of intolerance, not us.”
Christie called for taking on the Democrats directly.
“You know, I am shy and retiring,” he quipped to laughter. “But we need to be pro-life not only when the baby is in the womb, but when that baby is born. We have to be in favor of an educational system that teaches our children. We need to be responsible for rehabilitating kids who are sick or in need of help.”
In contrast with the Obama administration’s focus on fixing “income inequality,” he called for creating jobs through the free enterprise system.
“We don’t have an income inequality problem in the USA, we have an opportunity inequality problem with the federal government trying to control opportunity,” he declared.
Christie said the country needs leaders who say, “Not only are we against Obamacare, higher taxes, bigger government, more intrusion into our constitutional rights,” we are for a “free enterprise system that determines winners and losers – we are for a strong national defense, not a weak USA that allows others to lead us around all over the world.”
The country, he said, needs to “return to being an open government that shows the world we know how to govern ourselves effectively, providing a free and productive society that treasures liberty above all else can govern itself in a productive way.”
“We need to convince the American people Republicans know what we stand for and we know how to lead in the world once again,” Christie asserted.
“So, please, let us resolve not only to stand by our principles, but to win elections again,” he said,
“That’s what I hope to do and I hope you will join me again.”
See full coverage of the CPAC events: