Critics: Speech Sounded More Like One From A Presidential Candidate Than N.J.'s Leader

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) Gov. Chris Christie used his annual State of the State address to try to sell himself to a national audience as he prepares for a potential presidential run.

Christie joked about his days out of state. Just over a week ago he was in Texas cheering on his beloved Dallas Cowboys, but is he really running for president? Well, it certainly appeared that some of his comments were geared toward a national audience that appreciates small government and lower taxes, CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported Tuesday.

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“This administration believes today and has always believed that New Jersey and America will be a better place for middle class families when we shrink the size of government,” Christie said.

The governor reportedly spent more than 100 days out of state last year, and said he saw an anxious nation.

“I saw it on the streets of Chicago and felt it in the suburbs of Maryland. I heard it from farmers in Kansas and teachers in Colorado. I felt it from veterans in Maine and from workers in Arkansas,” he said.

Christie touted the progress New Jersey has made in the past five years, noting unemployment was down to 6.4 percent. He also said the state has balanced five budgets in a row and this year it will balance its sixth.

“Let’s be clear, the growth in our state has been part of a trend,” Christie said.

“In a year with plenty of politics from some overly partisan corners of this chamber, New Jersey has made progress — growing our economy, creating jobs, reforming our criminal justice system, and
improving some of our most challenged cities — like Camden,” Christie said.

About 80 people gathered Tuesday outside the statehouse to denounce Christie, shortly before he delivered the address. They criticized the governor’s handling of the economy, school funding, public pension reform and the environment.

Inside the chamber, Christie also talked about job growth and promised to veto any tax increases that came his way.

“Now, I know that many of you in this room believe that income tax increases are the way to go. So yes, sometimes we will simply have to disagree,” Christie said. “I have vetoed four income tax increases passed by this body. And make no mistake … I will veto any more income tax increases that come before me.”

The jobless rate has fallen 3.3 percentage points since a peak in 2010.

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But New Jersey’s jobless rate is tied for 35th highest and the state’s private-sector job growth lags that of New Jersey’s neighbors.

In regard to the economy, Christie called out Washington.

“New Jersey’s economy is growing, but it is not growing enough,” Christie said.

“Last week’s jobs report was good, but real wages declined. The economy is simply not as strong as it could be, or as it should be. We are a nation beset by anxiety. It is understandable. Economic growth is low by post-war recovery standards. America’s leadership in the world is called into question because of a pattern of indecision and inconsistency. During this time of uncertainty it seems our leaders in Washington would rather stoke division for their own political gain.”

New Jersey Working Families director Analilia Mejia said Christie’s speech was a smoke screen for a presidential campaign.

Jim Keady said the governor should give up national ambitions and focus on helping residents who are rebuilding their homes, more than two years after Superstorm Sandy. Keady gained notoriety when Christie told him to sit down and shut up during an October event.

Another Christie critic said the governor’s speech simply didn’t focus on the future of New Jersey.

“I don’t need to walk the streets of Chicago or the suburbs of Maryland. The streets of Jersey City to Bergen County to find out the issues we have in the state of New Jersey,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said.

As for a run at the White House, Christie made no mention, but did make a coy comment about the future, Brennan reported.

“So that when we stand here in one year … by the way, I’ll be standing here in one year,” Christie said.

In another indication of a possible presidential run, Christie met off the record with national reporters before his address, leaving out members of his state press corps.

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