New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, addressing about 100 Republicans in the lobby of a family-owned convenience store chain’s headquarters here, got right to the point: “If you’re looking for a candidate who agrees with you on everything, buy a mirror.”
Instead, he added, “When you look at these extraordinary candidates, say, ‘Is this the kind of person that is always going to make me proud in the Oval Office — and I never have to worry whether they’ll embarrass America, that I never have to worry will do something that will make me ashamed?’”
That kind of person, Christie said, is Romney. “Maybe we should expect at least that from our leaders, but we’ve learned over time that we don’t always get it,” he said.
Christie talked about an afternoon in October when Romney and his wife, Ann, visited him and his wife, Mary Pat, at the governor’s mansion in New Jersey for lunch. They sat in the back yard for two and a half hours, with the Christies’ kids cycling in and out on their skateboards and roller blades.
“He spent as much time talking to my children — I have four of them, between 8 and 18 — than he spent talking to me and Mary Pat,” Christie said. “You can’t fake that. Politicians can be taught to fake a lot of things. You can’t fake that. This is someone who I’ve come to know has an extraordinary heart. He loves his wife, he loves his children and he has absolutely no hesitation in showing that affection openly.
“Now that’s not what you see on TV all the time,” Christie added, “but I sat in my back yard for two and a half hours and watched him talk to my children.”
A few days later, Christie traveled to New Hampshire and endorsed Romney. He has been a powerful surrogate for Romney, on the campaign trail here and in New Hampshire, and is helping mobilize his financial supporters on Romney’s behalf.
Christie never singled out former House speaker Newt Gingrich — or, for that matter, any of Romney’s other rivals — but the contrasts he drew between Romney and Gingrich were clear.
“We’ve seen for the last three years what it means when we have a legislator as president,” Christie said. “I have nothing against legislators.. . .But they’ve never run anything. They don’t know how to run something. And we have seen what it’s like to have someone in office who doesn’t have the first idea of how to use executive power or how to exert real leadership.”
Asked later by this reporter whether he was concerned about Gingrich’s surge in the polls, Christie said: “Nope. Lots of people have surged in the polls out here. I wasn’t concerned about Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain or Rick Perry. Mitt Romney is the steady, mature leader we need for our party and our country.”