- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2014

One year removed from being snubbed by CPAC, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie drew a standing ovation from conservative activists Thursday, pointing to his own re-election last year as an example that standing on principle and winning elections are not mutually exclusive.

Mr. Christie, who many Republicans criticized following the 2012 presidential election for his 11th-hour praise of President Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy, sought to connect with grass-roots activists who have been wary of him by touting his pro-life credentials and saying it’s Democrats who are intolerant on abortion.

“We need to be pro-life when they leave the womb as well — for every step of their lives,” he said.

Mr. Christie is the favorite of many establishment Republicans, but he still resonated well with CPAC’s audience, which generally tilts toward party insurgents.

“He’s the most skilled GOP politician eyeing 2016,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, complimenting Mr. Christie for getting people “ginned up” in what was likely an audience not entirely enamored with him.

Mr. Christie easily won re-election as governor last year, and appeared poised to be a major factor in the 2016 GOP presidential nomination battle. But controversies around whether his deputies ordered the closure of lanes onto the George Washington Bridge to exact political revenge last year have hurt his national poll numbers, and he still struggles to convince many Republicans he’s conservative enough.

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Thirty percent of Republicans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll already say they definitely will not vote for Mr. Christie if he runs.

But Kyle Jones, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Alabama, said Mr. Christie helped sway many people in the ballroom at the Gaylord Hotel in Oxon Hill, Md.

“He’s still the Christie we knew before the Bridgegate scandal,” he told The Associated Press.

Mr. Christie, for his part, said his goal over the next year as chairman of the Republican Governors Association is to help elect as many Republicans as possible and help the party retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives and win back the majority in the U.S. Senate.

“We’ve got to start talking about what we’re for, and not what we’re against,” he said. “The reason for that is very, very simple. Our ideas are better than their ideas, and that’s what we have to stand up for.”

Mr. Christie took aim at Washington politicians, saying they have failed the country. But he also said Republicans need to find a way to be pragmatic in what they fight — and picking issues and candidates that can win general elections is paramount.

“We can’t govern if we can’t win,” he said.

Democrats fired back at his speech, with the Democratic National Committee issuing multiple rebukes: one reminding people of “Bridgegate” and another questioning his claims on job creation and economic development in the Garden State.

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