LAS VEGAS -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, seeking to move beyond the scandal that has hampered his political prospects, presented himself to elite donors here Saturday as a national leader who could help Republicans win elections.
Under the watchful eye of billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Christie said at a weekend gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition that GOP leaders must stop arguing amongst themselves and instead hone a message of inclusion with broad appeal to minorities.
“I assume that as Republicans you might be interested once again in winning elections,” Christie said. “I know I am.”
Christie, who is considered a likely candidate for president in 2016, added, “It’s time for us as a party to stop killing each other.”
“If we want to just have arguments that lead to nothing, we could just form a university,” he said.
Christie said his 2013 reelection in otherwise Democratic New Jersey offers a model for Republicans nationally. He noted that he won 51 percent of the Hispanic vote, which he said he achieved by going places where he is “uncomfortable” and listening to disaffected voters.
“We cannot take the position that all we’re going to do is Chamber of Commerce luncheons,” Christie said. “I go to Chamber of Commerce luncheons for two things: to say, ‘Thank you,’ and to assuage my own ego. That’s it.”
Christie was well received by a crowd of a few hundred donors and pro-Israel activists, many of whom strongly backed Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential contest. He spoke only briefly about foreign policy, but during a question-and-answer session said he was moved by his recent trip to Israel.
Christie said he had dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was “extraordinarily taken by his strength and resolve.” But he drew murmurs from some in the audience when he referred to a helicopter ride he took over the “occupied territories.”
Comfortable and loose on stage before many donors who backed his gubernatorial campaigns, Christie joked that he likes traveling to Israel because the country is “about the same size as New Jersey.”