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Christie To GOP: "It's Put Up Or Shut Up Time"

Christie To GOP: "It's Put Up Or Shut Up Time"

By Scott Conroy - February 16, 2011

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie rolled into Washington on Wednesday and delivered a blunt warning to members of his own party who were elected to Congress in November largely to reinstate fiscal discipline.

"It's put up or shut up time," Christie said during his address at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "If people who I campaigned for [in 2010] don't stand up and do the right thing, the next time they'll see me in their district is with my arm around their primary opponent."

Christie's speech focused on the balanced budget he ushered into his own state and his now famous battles against public unions. It also included a broad warning to the rest of the country that the time to act on major entitlement reform was now.

Lacing his address with snippets of his trademark humor as well as his brash style, Christie's address was extremely well received by the crowd packed into a smallish ballroom.

"My children's future and your children's future are more important than some political strategy," Christie said. "You're going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Whoah, I just said it, and I'm still standing here. I did not vaporize!"

Appearing not to refer to any prepared notes and maintaining a conversational tone, Christie said that the country was on the verge of "missing an historic opportunity" to deal with the fiscal crises that are not "in and of themselves Democratic or Republican issues."

Christie, now entering the second year of his first term as New Jersey's chief executive, lavished praise upon the newly elected Democratic Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo and also singled out California's new Democratic Governor Jerry Brown for immediately setting to work on turning around their states' budget woes.

"Leadership today in America has to be about doing the big things and being courageous," Christie said.

Christie criticized President Obama for focusing on "the candy of American politics" in calling for new investments in electric cars, broadband internet access, and high-speed rail lines in his State of the Union address.

He regaled his audience with stories about being booed by firefighters after rolling back their pensions and telling New Jersey Democrats that he would order a pizza and watch the Mets play on TV rather than pull a political publicity stunt, if they chose to shut down the state's government.

"I think it's time for some impatience in America," Christie said. "Leadership, in my opinion, is not about waiting. I get four years as governor of New Jersey. I don't have time to wait."

After speaking for a little more than a half hour, Christie turned to questions from the press and members of the audience. Surprising no one in the room, the first inquiry came from a reporter who wanted to know whether the governor would reconsider his firm denials of interest in running for president in 2012, in the event that he deemed members of the GOP field unwilling to address the entitlement reforms that he said were necessary to avoid financial ruin.

"Well, that took a long time, didn't it," Christie said with a bemused look on his face. "I threatened to commit suicide, I did. I said, ‘What do I have to do short of suicide to convince people I'm not running?' Apparently I have to actually commit suicide to convince people I'm not running."

Christie added that he did see that there was an opportunity for him to mount a successful presidential campaign but that opportunity alone was not a good enough reason to run and that he simply was not up for it and had made a commitment to his constituents in New Jersey.

"My wife would kill me," he added for good measure.

Nonetheless, after he had concluded his remarks, the conversation among the conservative movers and shakers who had gathered to hear him speak immediately turned to 2012.

"I think he's running," one man in the audience said.

"He needs to run," another replied. "He's got my support."

In a separate conversation, a third member of the audience had this to add to one of his colleagues: "Obama ran because he saw the opportunity. Christie's never going to be hotter than he is right now."

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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