New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talked about “a second American Century” in his keynote speech at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday night, saying Mitt Romney, if he becomes president, would tell Americans “the hard truths” they need to hear, much as Christie has done in New Jersey.
Christie’s speech used New Jersey as a blueprint for tackling the nation’s biggest problems. It cited Christie’s battles with unions, his efforts to balance New Jersey’s budget and cut taxes. He said Romney would create jobs, and cut spending to lower the debt.
He also criticized President Barack Obama, without using his name, for a lack of leadership.
“I know this simple truth, and I’m not afraid to say it: Our ideas are right for America and their ideas have failed America,” he said.
Christie’s speech capped a night that saw his brother Todd put Romney over the top in the delegate count, giving the former Massachusetts governor the nomination during the convention’s roll call of states.
Christie briefly mentioned Obama’s health care overhaul, saying Romney would “end the debacle of putting the world’s greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.”
He ended the speech by saying Americans are the masters of their own destiny, comparing the nation’s problems today to those faced by the Greatest Generation that fought in World War II.
“Now, it’s our time to answer history’s call,” he said. “I won’t be part of the generation that fails that test, and neither will you.”
It was time, he said, for Americans to confront difficult challenges that he said had been ignored for too long.
“It’s been easy for our leaders to say not us, and not now, in taking on the tough issues,” he said. “And we’ve stood silently by and let them get away with it.
“But tonight, I say enough. I say, together, let’s make a much different choice. Tonight, we are speaking up for ourselves and stepping up.”
He began by calling himself “a New Jersey Republican” and then spoke about his parents, who grew up in poverty. He said his father was in the audience and his mother, who died eight years ago, spoke the truth bluntly and “without much varnish.”
“I am her son,” he said.
He recounted his memories of growing up listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” with friends at the Jersey Shore, and living with his wife, Mary Pat, in a studio apartment in Summit. He said his mother taught him that it is better to be respected than loved — a lesson that was supposed to be about women, but which he said applied to being a leader.
“Tonight, we choose respect over love,” he said. “We are not afraid. We are taking our country back.”
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He talked about reforming pension systems in New Jersey, and taking on the teachers unions. He said that if he could accomplish what he has in New Jersey, a blue state, then: “Washington is out of excuses.”
He criticized Democrats for scaring seniors by telling them that Republicans were out to take away programs that benefit them but also said they need to be told “the truth about their overburdened entitlements.” He said his battles with teachers unions in New Jersey help define the difference between the parties.
“They believe in teachers unions,” he said. “We believe in teachers.”
He criticized the president for “absentee leadership.” He said some “skeptics” believe America has lost its greatness but that the only thing missing is leadership to propel the country to a “new era of greatness.”
“You see, Mr. President, real leaders don’t follow polls,” he said. “Real leaders change polls.”
All day Tuesday, Republicans were wary of potential political fallout as Hurricane Isaac threatened the Gulf Coast and raised the specter of the government’s failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.
Before Christie spoke, Romney’s wife, Ann, asked the delegates for prayers for those threatened by Isaac. Standing in front of a backdrop of family photos, Ann Romney said she wanted to talk about love in a speech that she hoped would show the softer side of her husband as a family man.
“I’m still in love with that boy I met at a high school dance and he still makes me laugh,” she said.