Chamber in the News
- Thursday, August 2, 2012
- Jenna Portnoy / Star-Ledger
Gov. Chris Christie yesterday kicked off a two-day mix of Republican politicking and Mitt Romney fundraising that highlights his Jersey profile in one of the states both presidential contenders believe could help sway this election.
In town for a Republican Governors Association conference, Christie and other big-name Republican governors talked up education reform and other favorite GOP issues last night at a forum organized by the Aspen Institute. The friendly crowd that filled a tent in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains included Texas Gov. Rick Perry and GOP strategist Karl Rove.
“We just passed tenure reform in New Jersey, which ties it directly to student achievement,” Christie said, referring to a bill he has yet to sign. “We have the oldest tenure reform law in the country. It’s never been amended.”
He said there was one reason the system didn’t change: “You know someone’s paying to not have that amended. And the people paying were the teachers union.”
Christie also talked about charter schools, repeating his line that in Newark, $24,000 is spent per student per year — drawing gasps from the audience.
Christie said he and Newark Mayor Cory Booker “get along great.”
“Cory’s my favorite Democrat,” he said. “Because what Booker understands is his city is never going to turn around until his educational system turns around. People will not live in Newark unless their children can get educated in Newark.”
Fielding a question from the crowd, Christie said Republicans shouldn’t change to accommodate voters worried about social issues.
“In New Jersey, I’m the first pro-life governor that’s been elected since Roe v. Wade,” he said. “The doctrine in our state was if you’re pro-life you can’t get elected statewide. It’s not true.”
When moderator Walter Isaacson asked if Romney could pick a pro-choice running mate, Christie turned the tables: “Would Barack Obama be free to pick a prolife vice president at the convention?”
Today the governors will be joined by Romney, who has at least three events, including two with Christie. President Obama will be in Colorado next week.
“In a race as competitive as this one, the campaigns view any competitive state as one they have to win,” said Peter Hanson, a political scientist at the University of Denver. "They don’t know which one will tip the balance so they will be campaigning hard in all of them.”
Though New Jersey voters choose Democrats in presidential races, Christie was one of the first governors to endorse Romney and is an outspoken surrogate. His hardto-ignore bombast has fueled talk that he is a vice presidential contender or could play a prominent role at the GOP convention in Tampa.
After last night’s discussion, Christie took photos with fans and embraced former Louisiana Gov. Haley Barbour, who directed $7.5 million in giving to his 2009 campaign for governor. As vice chair of the RGA, Christie said it’s his job to talk with donors at meetings like this.
“It’s part of my responsibility to be here and to meet with the folks who support the RGA and we’re going to do some stuff with Governor Romney tomorrow,” he said in an interview. “I don’t say anything differently (to donors) behind closed doors than I say publicly. I think it’s pretty clear he’s the best choice. I’ve thought that since last October.”
Romney will start today at a rally at the Jefferson County fairgrounds in Golden, followed by an appearance with Christie and other governors at Basalt Public High School. Christie will head back to Aspen for a Romney fundraiser.
The RGA this week hosted deep-pocket donors in the ski town, where Kate Spade, Burberry and Fendi shops line cobblestone streets along with high-end consignment shops and sporting goods retailers.
Next week Christie will make a fundraising swing for Romney through California. At the same time, the Associated Press reports, Obama will make stops in Denver, Grand Junction, Pueblo and Colorado Springs.