New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a conservative hero who assumed office in 2010, delivered a scathing critique of federal politicians during a Monday speech in Washington, but perhaps the man he most maligned—without naming him—is the one he supports for president: Mitt Romney.
"We shouldn't be listening to political consultants whispering in our ears, 'Say as little as possible,' we shouldn't be listening to those voices that say, 'Just use the party doctrine and don't stray.' We should be telling people how we think and how we feel and let them judge us up or down," Christie said. "You can't lead by being a mystery. You can't lead by being an enigma. You can't lead by being aloof. You can't lead by being programmed. I think you have to lead by being yourself and who you are and then people will trust you."
Christie was at the Brookings Institute to discuss the work he's done to successfully balance New Jersey's budget despite being a Republican serving with a Democratic legislature, but also focused on effective leadership.
Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, has faced criticism throughout his career for being a political opportunist lacking core principles. He currently opposes gay marriage, supports pro-life movements, and is an advocate for Second Amendment rights, stances he did not hold during his 1994 Senate campaign or his time as Masssachusetts governor.
Perhaps Romney's most glaring reversal has been his stance on requiring individuals to purchase health insurance, a key portion of the health care reform law he passed in Massachusetts and touted as a model for national expansion. He now opposes the same mandate in President Obama's law.
Christie neither referred to the presidential race nor Romney in his remarks, but the parallels between Romney's reputation and Christie's leadership comments were hard to miss.
"We have too many elected officials who are obsessed with re-election and that they're willing to do anything to keep their job," Christie said. "That's not the kind of person you want in the executive position, or any position for that matter, but certainly in an executive position giving the challenges that our country faces. Beware of the person who will do anything to get re-elected because that means they'll do anything to get re-elected."
But Christie was an early Romney supporter, especially in the infancy of the GOP primary race when Romney was still struggling to convince conservatives they could trust him.
"America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney's the man we need to lead America, and we need him now," Christie said last October in his endorsement. Since then, Christie has been rumored to be a potential vice presidential candidate.
The New Jersey Republican, known for his combativeness, also cast blame on Washington politicians of both parties for failing to lead.
"I can walk and chew gum at the same time – I can fight with Democrats publicly and privately over issues of principle where we can't find compromise, and at the same time, hold conversations with them on issues where we can find common ground and force that," Christie said.
"This illusion that you see in this town that somehow that can't happen, it's not possible, it's just an excuse. It's an excuse of failed leadership by both parties. You have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. You have to be able to find compromise. People send us to these jobs to get things done."
Christie added that politicians need to remember that holding on to their title isn't as important as accomplishing the job they were elected to do.
"If they kick you out of office, they kick you out of office – seems to me it's not the end of the world. But for some people, maybe it is, but we should keep those people out of office," Christie said.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.