New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who won a landslide re-election earlier this month, continued his victory tour Monday during an appearance before some of the country’s top executives in Washington, D.C.
Christie, a top GOP 2016 presidential prospect who also takes over leadership of the Republican Governors Association, doled out barbs and advice for politicians on both sides of the aisle during a convivial 30-minute interview at the Four Seasons.
“Your job in running the government is to run it and run it effectively and efficiently and all the people down here, from the president to the leadership in Congress who engaged in this stuff failed, by definition,” said Christie, at the 2013 CEO Council annual meeting hosted by the Wall Street Journal.
“Why are people more appreciative of what’s going on in the states? Because we’re doing our jobs,” he said.
Christie said he won re-election in the deep blue state in part because he made a conscious effort to reach out to voters who he performed poorly with during his first campaign, including Hispanics and African-Americans.
“We made the concerted effort from the time I got into office … we started working with those groups and getting them a serious seat at the table, knowing they weren’t always going to agree with my policies, but that they were going to be listened to,” he said, adding that national Republicans need to start reaching out now if they want to win support from minority voters in 2016.
Christie blew off critics from the conservative wing of his party who said he is too moderate because of the success he had with winning over New Jersey Democrats to help sail to re-election.
“The better you do, the more voters you attract, the more diverse voters you attract, the more suspect you are? Well there’s a winning formula,” he said. “I’m going to be me. And if I ever decide to run for anything again, if being me isn’t enough, then fine. I’ll go home. This isn’t my whole life.”
And though he also was scrutinized for his literal embrace of President Barack Obama last year leading up to the presidential election during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Christie didn’t pull any punches when it came to critiquing his leadership and the current gridlock.
“First and foremost it’s the president [is responsible] because if you are the executive, you’re the one in charge of making [things] happen,” he said, adding that “it’s no secret” Obama has not developed the warm relationships with lawmakers on either side of the aisle to shepherd compromise.
Asked what he would change in Washington, Christie said, “the people, predominantly. Both parties have equal blame in what’s going on here.” Christie also mocked Republicans who led the fight to de-fund the Affordable Care Act that led to a 16-day federal government shutdown.
“[Republicans] just did not have an endgame to a strategy,” he said. “Since Obamacare is still currently being funded and the government is re-opened, maybe I’m too simple, but it appears to me that the strategy of de-funding it by closing the government failed.”
Christie, known for his straight-talking style, declined to say when he would decide about a 2016 campaign, but said whoever runs should be direct with voters and shake off failed approaches.
“These are complex problems and people are tired of these focus-group tested, blow-dried answers that people give that all sound the same,” he said. “We have to stop as a party of going back to all the old tried and true ways of running these kinds of campaigns. They’re not working. We need someone who is going to be clear, direct, authentic and say what they think.”