NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told Tennessee Republicans on Friday that political discord at home has made the United States vulnerable abroad.
"The world is frightened, because if we can't get along with each other, how can we lead the rest of the world?" Christie told the 1,700 people who attended the state GOP's annual fundraiser.
Christie criticized Washington for its gridlocked ways and promoted bipartisan solutions to the nation's problems.
"I don't know when compromise became capitulation," he said.
"I don't know when it became wrong to talk to people on the other side, to respect them and become their friends," he said. "We can disagree, but if we don't establish relationships, when the real problems need to be solved ... we won't be able to do it because we're not even on speaking terms."
Christie has been fighting to recover from a traffic scandal that has deflated enthusiasm among some Republicans over his potential 2016 presidential campaign. But he has maintained a heavy travel and fundraising schedule as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. He noted that Tennessee is the 15th state he's visited since Dec. 1.
Before the speech, the governor told reporters that he won't make up his mind about a White House bid until next year.
"My mother taught me a long time ago: Stupid people make decisions before they have to," he said. "And I'm not stupid."
Earlier in the day Christie traveled to a Memphis suburb to campaign for Sen. Lamar Alexander, who's facing tea party-styled challenger Joe Carr and self-funded radiologist George Flinn in the Republican Senate primary.
Christie said Alexander has been able to move beyond what he called "divisive activity" and partisan politics in Washington, and urged Tennesseans to return him for a third term.
"Let's not start getting dumb now, and stay smart," Christie said. "Sen. Alexander is someone who brings people together. He brings people together around good ideas. "
Those comments drew a rebuke from Carr that focused on Christie's home-state troubles.
"You know what's dumb? Presiding over a state that has a $2.7 billion budget deficit, has had its credit bond ratings downgraded six times and has become a fixture of controversy and scandal," Carr said in a statement. "Here in Tennessee, that's the definition of dumb governance."
Associated Press writer Adrian Sainz contributed to this report from Germantown, Tenn.