WASHINGTON -- In a sure sign that he's running for president, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined the parade of candidates who spoke this week at the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” in Washington, D.C., this week. But he didn't change his usual message before the crowd of conservative, religious activists.
Christie didn’t try to infuse more religion into his Friday morning speech than normal, mainly sticking with talking about foreign policy, entitlement reform and bipartisan successes since he took office in 2010. Christie, whose lack of official campaign announcement is fueling speculation that scandals in his administration might keep him out of the 2016 campaign, has positioned himself as a moderate, consensus builder. And his comments Friday indicate he isn't prepared to move farther to the right to try to win their votes. He thinks he can make his case without sliding on the political spectrum.
He did tout his anti-abortion credentials, though, noting he vetoed funding for Planned Parenthood in the New Jersey state budget. But he said being “pro-life” is about more than just fighting abortion.
“When you’re pro-life, you need to be pro-life for the whole life,” Christie told the crowd. “The easiest time, in my view, is when that child is in the womb; they haven’t done anything yet to disappoint us.”
Christie said it’s much harder to be pro-life when the life in question is a drug addict in prison. “We need to save lives, not dispose of them, because every one of those lives is a gift from god and deserves a chance for redemption.”
Christie also invoked prayer when talking about the Wednesday-night shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine peopled were killed by a gunman who identified their race as the reason for the murders. "Laws can’t change this; only the goodwill and the love of the American people can let those folks know that that act was unacceptable, disgraceful, and we need to do more to show that we love each other," Christie said.
But it was clear Christie wasn’t trying to tailor his message for the audience, but instead make his argument to the conservative crowd. He said he’s embracing the issue of overhauling Social Security and Medicare -- talking to the mostly older voters in attendance, who tend to be less enthusiastic about changes to the program. But Christie said he will phase the changes in over 25 years.
“If we don’t have this conversation, we are selling our country short. Worse yet, we are resigning our children to a lesser life,” Christie said.
He took a few swipes at President Barack Obama. “When you think about the world that Barack Obama inherited when he came to the White House and the world he will be leaving the next president,... it is startling how much damage can be done in seven short years."
And he poked at likely rival candidate Sen. Rand Paul, not using his name while criticizing him for supporting changes to the Patriot Act. In a direct attack on Paul, Christie said he’s supporting strong efforts to protect Americans and their privacy, “not giving political speeches on the floor of the Senate to raise money for a presidential campaign.”
“I will tell you today has made America weaker and more vulnerable,” Christie said of changes to the Patriot Act.
Christie touted his accomplishments in New Jersey since taking the governor's office in 2010, noting that he's created many private sector jobs during his tenure, even while working with a Democrat-controlled legislature. “These guys do not wake up every morning and say, 'How can we make Chris Christie happy today?'” he said.