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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In Keynote Speech, Christie Asks Country to Face Hard Truths


TAMPA, Fla. - Chris Christie, the sharp-tongued governor of New Jersey, on Tuesday extolled Mitt Romney as an exceptional leader willing to speak hard truths to a nation weary of President Obama‘s policies and ready to make a much-needed change.

“It's time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House,” Mr. Christie said, according to prepared remarks. “America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and we need them right now.”

In delivering the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, Mr. Christie demonstrated his trademark bluntness - crediting his mother for teaching him how to speak “without much varnish” - but he did not lash out in personal ways at Mr. Obama, hardly mentioning the president by name.

Instead, Mr. Christie reserved his sharp words for a tough contrast between the Republican approach to solving problems and a Democratic approach that he said would continue to fail to turn around the American economy and the country's broken political system.

He accused Democrats of ignoring the truth about the country's economic difficulties and of wanting people to be coddled by “big government.”

“Their plan: Whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power,” Mr. Christie said.

Mr. Christie had been considered a top prospect to be Mr. Romney's running mate. He also briefly considered running for president himself this year, but ruled it out, concluding that he was not yet ready to assume the office.

The Romney campaign picked Mr. Christie to deliver the keynote add ress for his reputation as a straight-talking governor who has little patience for those who question his resolve.

But his aggressive style, which has led critics to brand him as a bully - he has called people “stupid” and “idiots” - was not on display in the hall. Nor was his anti-union fervor, which has emerged through his battles with the labor movement in his state.

Mr. Christie did offer some sharp jabs at Mr. Obama that whipped up the partisan crowd in the hall.

“It takes leadership that you don't get from reading a poll,” Mr. Christie said, directing his remarks at Mr. Obama. “You see, Mr. President â€" real leaders don't follow polls. Real leaders change polls.”

But primarily, the speech offered a challenge to the country to change course from an administration that he said was letting the nation's economy drift. He said the status quo must change, and he praised Mr. Romney as the right man to take the country in a different di rection.

In describing the current crisis with the political system, Mr. Christie did not mince words or spare many, even those in his own party who he said had contributed to growing debt, a slowing economy and an inability to get anything done.

“Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular, to do what is easy and say ‘yes,' rather than to say ‘no' when ‘no' is what's required,” Mr. Christie said. “It's been easy for our leaders to say not us, and not now, in taking on the tough issues. And we've stood silently by, and let them get away with it.”

Drawing on his two years as New Jersey's governor, Mr. Christie said the nation could do better. He said he had learned to work across the aisle with Democrats - a claim that many in the other party would dispute.

He said that national politicians like Mr. Romney and his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, must be willing to tell the hard truths to the A merican people about the future of popular entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. Voters will reward them for it, he said.

“If you're willing to hear the truth about the hard road ahead, and the rewards for America that truth will bear, I'm here to begin with you this new era of truth-telling,” he said.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.