Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who last year spurned pleas from fellow Republicans to make a bid for the White House, will be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, a Republican official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement, which is expected today.
“I’ll try to tell some very direct and hard truths to people in the country about the trouble that we’re in and and the fact that fixing these problems is not going to be easy for any of them,” Christie told USA Today in an interview about his role at the convention, where Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will be nominated as the party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates.
He told the paper he would use his experience in New Jersey to show that “the American people are ready to confront those problems head-on and endure some sacrifice.” USA Today earlier reported his selection.
He joins previously announced speakers at the Aug. 27-30 convention, including Senator John McCain of Arizona, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former senator and presidential contender Rick Santorum.
Christie, 49, became a national political figure for raising public employee contributions to pensions and benefits, resisting tax increases against millionaires and leveling insults at critics during “Jersey-style” confrontations.
New Jersey’s first-term governor has campaigned across the nation for Romney and other Republican candidates. He is in demand as a public speaker, and more than half of all registered voters in his home state, where Democrats outnumber Republicans, approve of the job he is doing as governor.
Christie is a provocative figure on YouTube, where he has his own channel and his videos have been viewed more than 5 million times, and where he can be seen battling with opponents.
The governor has called union leaders “political thugs.” A Navy veteran who argued with him at a town-hall meeting was an “idiot” and a Democratic lawmaker was an “arrogant S.O.B.’
Christie has called other opponents a ‘‘joke,’’ a ‘‘jerk’’ and ‘‘numbnuts,’’ and was filmed in July calling a heckler ‘‘tough guy’’ on the Seaside boardwalk. Last year, he urged reporters to ‘‘take the bat out’’ on a 76-year-old female senator for collecting both a public pension and a paycheck as a legislator while knocking others for similar practices.
Christie has directed verbal attacks at Obama as well. He has called the president a ‘‘bystander in the Oval Office’’ and ‘‘the most ill-prepared person to assume the presidency in my lifetime.’’
The governor has said that voters appreciate that he is not a ‘‘scripted politician.’’
Christie had a health scare in July 2011 when he was taken to a hospital after being treated for symptoms related to chronic asthma. The governor, who has acknowledged being overweight, said in early 2011 interviews that he was on a diet and that his motivation for losing weight was his children.
In a January interview with Oprah Winfrey, Christie said he felt guilty about being overweight and wished for his family’s sake he could get his size under control. The governor said during that interview that the weight issue hurt him more when he was younger and that he has ‘‘developed a bit of a shell’’ about it in public life because it’s talked about more.
The first Republican elected chief executive of his state in 12 years, Christie ousted incumbent Jon Corzine in November 2009 after voters rejected the one-term Democrat’s handling of a recession that left the state with the highest unemployment rate in three decades. He became New Jersey’s 55th governor in January 2010, pledging to lower taxes and add jobs
Faced with a record $10.7 billion deficit in his first budget, and a Democratic-controlled legislature, Christie reduced funding for schools and towns, cut property-tax rebates and skipped a $3 billion payment into the state’s pension fund. In June 2011, he signed legislation to raise government workers’ contributions to healthcare and retirement benefits.
His campaign to control New Jersey spending was rebuffed in May 2011 by the state’s highest court, which ordered him to restore some of his school-aid reductions. Christie has accused the court of ‘‘legislating from the bench” and battled with Democrats over his judicial appointments.
Christie’s tussles helped make him a star among some national Republicans. Party leaders and donors including Kenneth Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot Inc.; hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and industrialist David Koch urged Christie to run for the White House. The governor often joked that he’d “have to commit suicide” to convince people he wouldn’t seek higher office in 2012.
Christie spurned those calls to run in October, saying he couldn’t “walk away” from his commitment to New Jersey voters. His decision dashed the hopes of some Republicans who had sought an alternative to Romney.
“New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with me,” he said during the news conference called to end speculation about a presidential run. A week later he endorsed Romney, and has been a key surrogate for him during the campaign.
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