CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie's first target Monday in a speech that sounded like a presidential pitch wasn't President Barack Obama or likely Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. Instead, he took a swipe at his New Hampshire counterpart, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.
"She will use this platform as a way to increase her own visibility and run for the next job," Christie said, referring to Hassan's possible bid for U.S. Senate in 2016. "Let's be careful. We've got enough of those types in Washington, D.C., already. We don't need you to send any more there."
Christie, serving his second term, made his comments while delivering the keynote address at the Concord and Merrimack County GOPs' annual dinner. He has delivered recent speeches in the first-caucus state of Iowa and another in Illinois and has taken a trip to London as he builds the groundwork for a likely presidential campaign. As chairman of the Republican Governors Association leading up to the November election he campaigned with candidates in 37 states.
He campaigned with Hassan's opponent Walt Havenstein five times last summer and fall. During those visits, he often kept the focus off of his political future. But as the star of Monday's event, he pitched himself as a straight-talking politician who, using his experience governing a blue state, can enact real reforms in education, public pension systems and the economy.
About 250 people paid to hear his speech.
Democrats scoffed at Christie's criticism of Hassan.
"It's more than a little surprising that the governor of New Jersey, who is traveling out of state to run for higher office, would make such ridiculous attacks," New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley said.
Christie also took aim at what he called Obama's weak foreign policy and criticized Clinton's attempts to "reset" the country's relationship with Russia.
Performing well in the New Hampshire primary would be critical to Christie's ability to secure the Republican nomination. Establishment-minded candidates typically fare well in New Hampshire, and Christie could face stiff competition in the state from contenders such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Christie is known for his blunt style and sometimes explosive responses to questions from voters with whom he doesn't agree. He has tried to tone down that image in recent weeks but assured New Hampshire voters "there's only one Chris Christie."
Voters won't agree with every position Christie or any other politician takes, he said, but they will always know where he stands.
"I think what really matters to folks is do you get the job done and do you tell them what you believe from your heart even if they don't agree with every word of it," he said.
Several voters in attendance said they appreciated Christie's style and liked him more than they'd anticipated.
"I'm a very conservative Republican, and I never thought that there would be so many points where we were right eye to eye on, and that surprised me," said Carrie McGee, of Concord, although she said she prefers Walker.
Jay DeGreenia, of Concord, said he likes Christie's outspoken style.
"I'm an independent, so I usually wait until the last minute to see who's the best candidate," he said. "From what I've heard from him speaking and what's he done in New Jersey I like him a lot. I would definitely support him."