NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addressed head-on questions about his volatile temper on Thursday and dismissed critics, telling a gathering of conservatives: “I’m still standing.”
The potential Republican presidential contender is trying to remain viable for the November 2016 election despite losing some financial donors to rival Jeb Bush. Polls put Christie in the middle of a Republican pack led by Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Christie has a reputation for being short-tempered, and examples abound of instances where he has shouted down hecklers.
The subject came up when he took questions from conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, near Washington.
Christie was told his critics have often described him as short-tempered, impatient, a hothead, and having a bad temperament.
The governor said he is passionate and willing to speak his mind directly without political consultants whispering in his ear.
“Sometimes people need to be told to sit down and shut up,” Christie said. “More of that stuff needs to be happening in Washington.”
He has weathered a series of local troubles in the past year, chiefly over the “Bridgegate” scandal involving alleged political payback against a Democratic New Jersey mayor and the George Washington Bridge. In addition, New Jersey has struggled to regain jobs lost during the recession.
Christie’s challenge is to get past this rocky period and hang on until later this year when the candidate debates begin. The debates would allow him to use his natural speaking prowess to his advantage.
Said Christie, “I’m still standing.”
Grassroots conservatives who attended his appearance made clear the governor has some work to do to appeal to their crowd.
Patrick Davis, a political consultant from Colorado Springs, Colorado, said Christie’s brashness may work for New Jersey voters, but he did not think it would play well in Iowa, site of the first presidential nominating contest.
“I live in Colorado, and it doesn’t work in Colorado,” Davis said.
“He’s Obama-lite,” said Joe Nicks, 81, of Burlington, North Carolina.
On CPAC’s first full day of speakers, conservative activists also heard from businesswoman Carly Fiorina and Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Both criticized the favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis