Christie to GOP: ‘For our ideas to matter, we have to win’

August 15, 2013

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) last month. (John Gress/ REUTERS)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told his party's leaders Thursday that they need to stop worrying about philosophical debates and focus on winning elections -- a potential preview of his argument for why he should earn their presidential nomination in 2016.

“For our ideas to matter, we have to win," Christie said in a speech to the Republican National Committee in Boston, according to a person at the closed-door speech. "Because if we don’t win, we don’t govern. And if we don’t govern, all we do is shout to the wind. And so I am going to do anything I need to do to win.”

Christie also appeared to create some distance between himself and another potential GOP presidential candidate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Jindal urged his party after the 2012 election to stop being "the stupid party" -- referring to its candidates saying unhelpful things. Those remarks were also delivered to the RNC.

Christie took the opposite view in his speech Thursday to the RNC, saying, "I'm not going to be one of these people who goes around and calls our party stupid.”

Christie is set to succeed Jindal as chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2014, and there has been little indication of any tension between the two men.

Indeed, in other ways, Christie's comments appeared to echo those of Jindal, who in the months since his "stupid party" comment has shunned all the "navel-gazing" in the GOP. Christie used that exact word Thursday to make essentially the same point -- that the GOP should stop beating itself up.

Christie's comments were first reported by CNN's Peter Hamby.

In other comments, Christie criticized his party for being overly professorial about its path forward.

Some interpreted the comments as being directed at Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whom Christie battled with over privacy and surveillance a few weeks back. But they could also be taken as a call for more pragmatism in the party.

"There's nothing wrong with our principles; we need to focus on winning again," Christie said. "There's too much at stake for this to be an academic exercise. We need to win and govern with authority and courage."

Pragmatism in the party's ranks would certainly aid Christie's 2016 chances, given that he has allied himself with the party establishment and appears to have alienated some of the party's more conservative activists -- particularly by working closely with President Obama after Hurricane Katrina and during the recent spat with Paul.

Despite this, every poll shows that Christie is the most broadly popular Republican in the country and that he fares better than any other Republican in potential 2016 presidential matchups.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Aaron Blake · August 15, 2013