BOSTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday took shots at two potential rivals for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination while urging national Republicans to get over their 2012 losses and focus on winning.
Christie, up for re-election in New Jersey this year, spent much of his hour-long address to the Republican National Committee's summer meeting talking about his own battles as a Republican leading a Democratic state. But he also spoke to the GOP's aspirations for a political resurgence, and in doing so criticized a pair of would-be 2016 opponents, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
"I'm not going to be one of those people who goes and calls our party stupid," Christie said, referring to a January speech in which Jindal did just that, according to a Republican operative who attended Christie's closed-door luncheon.
"We need to stop navel gazing; there's nothing wrong with our principles," Christie said, according to a source who requested anonymity to share portions of the governor's speech. "We need to focus on winning again. There's too much at stake for this to be an academic exercise. We need to win and govern with authority and courage."
Christie also appeared to take a shot at Paul, the libertarian-leaning freshman and Tea Party favorite urging the GOP to rethink its positions on key issues, such as foreign policy. "We're not a debating society," Christie said. "We're a political operation that needs to win."
Christie's once-rising star has dimmed somewhat among the GOP's conservative base since just before the 2012 election when he hosted President Obama's tour of Hurricane Sandy's aftermath and lauded the leadership of a president he used to harshly criticize.
Christie was doing what governors often do after a natural disaster: He welcomed a president who could provide assistance and financial Christie needed to revive a devastated area. But many Republicans say Christie went further than he needed to in embracing Obama, arguing that his actions helped sink GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Election Day.
But for RNC members and other guests at Thursday's private lunch at the Westin Waterfront, that disappointing episode appears to be behind the governor. His address was punctuated by laughter and applause so wild they could be heard outside the closed ballroom and in a partial recording of his remarks obtained by news organizations.
"I really was taken aback when he befriended Obama so closely during the race. That really stung me at the time," said Paul Reynolds, an RNC committeeman from Birmingham, Ala. Still, Reynolds, 71, sounds as if the pain has waned despite never hearing Christie adequately explain why he drew Obama so close ahead of the 2012 election.
"He's doing what he said he could do, and he's doing it the way he said he would do it, I don't know what else we could want," Reynolds said. "The longer I am in this, the more I believe that the top executive in the country needs to come from the rank of the governors."