New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie launched his presidential campaign Tuesday in Livingston, the Essex County community where he grew up and attended high school.
Christie, who was introduced by high school friends and came onstage to make the announcement as Bon Jovi’s “We Weren’t Born to Follow” blared over the Livingston High School gymnasium’s loudspeakers, leaned heavily on themes of family and his hometown roots during his speech – a break from the governor’s signature tough talk on policy issues.
“Everything started here for me,” Christie told the gathered crowd in an ad-libbed speech that was delivered without a script or teleprompters. “The confidence, the education, the friends, the family and the love that I’ve always felt for and from this community. When I decided to make this announcement, there wasn’t any choice, I had to come home, and Livingston is home for me.”
He described his parents’ relocation to Livingston from Newark, and how his father took a job in a Breyer’s ice cream factory after his grandfather died suddenly, cutting short his father’s college aspirations. The anecdote introduced themes of hard work and compromise that continued throughout the remainder of Christie’s announcement.
“America is tired of hand-wringing and indecisiveness,” Christie said. “We need to have strength, decision-making and authority back in the Oval Office, and that is why I am running for President of the United States of America.”
The two-term governor touted his record in New Jersey as a reformer, pointing to a successful effort to remake the state’s pension and benefits system for unionized public employees, the first reform of the state’s educational tenure laws in 105 years and successive balanced budgets following an $11 billion budget deficit during the administration of former Gov. Jon Corzine.
In Washington, “both parties have stood in the corner and held their breath,” Christie said. “This dysfunction, this lack of leadership, has led to an economy that’s weak and hasn’t recovered the way it should. Our friends can no longer trust us and our adversaries no longer fear us.”
Christie called President Barack Obama’s foreign policy “weak and feckless,” warning that, “We better not turn it over to his second mate, Hillary Clinton.”
He also pledged to “fix a broken entitlement system” in the federal government.
“The horse is out of the barn, we need to get it back in, and we can only do it by force,” he said.
But despite the swipes at Clinton and Obama, Christie repeated his oft-used slogan, “Compromise is not a dirty word,” saying in New Jersey he worked with “our friends in the Democratic party” to push through reform measures against the will of the state’s “most powerful special interest groups,” referring to New Jersey’s powerful public employee unions.
“This country needs to work together again, not against each other,” Christie said. “This is your country too. We are going to go and win this election.”