Christie: Elements of Tea Party Are 'Republicans at Their Best'

Tuesday, 05 Nov 2013 07:56 PM

By Greg Richter

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As Chris Christie prepared for almost certain victory for a second term as New Jersey governor, he was sounding like his thoughts are already on the 2016 Republican presidential primaries in an interview Tuesday with CNN's Jake Tapper.

Asked whether he considers himself a member of the tea party element of the Republican Party, Christie sounded conciliatory, telling Tapper, "There are elements of the tea party that are Republicans at their best."

Tea partiers, he noted, favor limited government and individual liberty and freedom. They are tough on government spending and question the need for raising taxes.

Story continues below video.

"The core of the tea party movement, as I understand it, I think is consistent with good Republican conservatism," Christie said.

But Christie added that when some people try to use the tea party movement to try to enhance themselves politically, it can get "perverted."

"Some of the stuff that's happened of late down in Washington is not even consistent with what a lot of the real folks who started the tea party movement would agree with," Christie said.

He didn't specify whether he was talking about the 16-day government shutdown that gave Republicans a black eye. But he sounded as if he might be alluding to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas earlier in the interview when he said, "Sometimes I feel like our party cares more about winning the argument than they care about winning elections."

Cruz was criticized by establishment Republicans for leading the effort to try to force President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to delay the individual mandate of Obamacare. Cruz said he was keeping the promises made to his constituents and not grandstanding to boost his own potential in 2016.

"If you don't win elections, you can't govern," Christie told Tapper. And if you don't govern, he said, you can't change the direction of your state or country.

Christie, a popular GOP governor in a blue state, said his party must learn to reach out to groups such as African-Americans and Hispanics, who don't traditionally vote Republican, long before election season.

"One of the mistakes our party's made is that we go six, eight, nine months before an election and start to talk to groups that haven't normally been supportive of us and say, well, how about looking at us now," Christie said. "And I think those folks are rightfully suspicious when you do that."

Christie also had advice for Obama after the president was criticized for his clarification of his promise that people could keep health insurance they like.

"Here's what my suggestion would be to him: Don't be so cute. And when you make a mistake, admit it," Christie said.

Christie said he had just seen Monday's speech on Tuesday morning. His reaction: "That's Barack Obama the lawyer, not the leader."

As a lawyer himself, Christie said he knows all about the opinions people have of the profession.

"Don't lawyer it," Christie said. "People don't like lawyers."

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