In Soaring Speech, Christie Won't Rule Out Run

He’s said over and over (and over again) that he’s not running for president this year, but in front of a sold out audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Gov. Chris Christie chose not be so direct. Instead, the governor of state gave a soaring speech that pointed to the ways bipartisan domestic policy achievements are an essential plank of foreign policy – a framing that would fit nicely should he decide to make the case a governor with 20 months on the job has the experience necessary to lead America on a global stage.

Here, his case in five points about what America needs now, and how neither President Obama nor Republican leaders are delivering: 

1. 30 Years Later, Air Traffic Controllers Matter

Christie opened his speech by referencing his favorite Reagan moment. It was in 1981, when Reagan made good on his threat to fire air traffic controllers if they walked off the job. The “confrontation between a president and a public sector union,” as Christie called it,

And for a governor who’s best known for taking on the state teachers union, including directly taking on individual teachers in viral YouTube videos, Christie made a play that he is the guy who can make the best claim on that legacy.

2. Barack Obama, You’re No Ronald Reagan.

Gov. Christie called Obama “a bystander” whose “failure is our failure.” He also accused Obama of abandoning the transcendent politics that brought him to national attention at the Democratic convention seven years ago. “When did he decide to become one of the “dividers” he spoke of so eloquently in 2004?  There is, of course, a different choice,” Christie said, and waited a beat. “That choice is the way Ronald Reagan led America in the 1980’s.”  

3. Republicans in Congress Are Wrong Too

Christie didn’t just single out President Obama for criticism. He also took aim at the “Congress at war with itself because they are unwilling to leave campaign style politics at the Capitol’s door.” The gridlock has weakened reputation in the world and “made our democracy appear as if we could no longer effectively govern ourselves.”

What’s needed now is leadership, but also compromise. That’s not a talking point you hear among Congressional Re;publicans these days.

In contrast, he pointed to bipartisan deals on pension on reform in New Jersey, that shows “divided government that is working” and called Democratic leaders in the legislature as friends.

4. By the way, Rick Perry’s Wrong Too. 

In his speech, Christie made no mention of any of the Republican presidential candidates and extended no platitudes about any Republican being preferable to President Obama. He also went out of his way to be clear that he has some differences with the current leader in the GOP presidential field, Rick Perry. The Texas governor drew jeers for his defense of a policy to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition in tuition. “I don’t think you have a heart” if you oppose that policy, Perry said in the Republican debate last week. Christie said he disagrees, and opposes “subsidizing” their education. “That is not a heartless position,” he said. “That is a common sense position.”

5. If A=B, and B=C.... 

What the world needs now, Christie said, is Ronald Reagan. His other point, of course, was ‘look how I’m like Ronald Reagan.’

And the audience bit.

At the close of the q&a that followed Christie’s speech, a woman stood and implored Christie to enter the presidential race. The crowed interrupted with nervous laughter, to which she snapped that this was not a joke. “Please sir, we need you,” she said. “Your country needs you to run for president.”

That drew a standing ovation and left Chrisitie visibly moved. He didn’t take the bait, but he didn’t say no either.

That heartfelt message you gave me is not a reason for me to do it. That reason has to reside inside me. I know without ever having met President Reagan that he must have felt deeply in his heart that he was called to that moment to lead our country. And so my answer to you is just this. I thank you for what you are saying and I take it in and listen to every word of it and feeling it too.

It wasn’t as direct a refusal as Christie’s mustered in the past, to say the least. And in this final week of the quarterly fundraising period, after months of Republican debates and straw polls, that’s most certainly not enough of the characteric straight talk from Christie for Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and the rest of the Republican field.