WHIPPANY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spent much of a town hall-style meeting Tuesday in his state talking up what he believes makes a winning candidate and espousing the principle that rights and liberties come from God, not government.
The potential Republican presidential contender, who says he plans to make a decision about a run by the end of spring to early summer, traveled to Morris County for his 132nd Town Hall to sell his state budget plan.
But in response to a question about electing more Republicans in New Jersey, Christie said candidates need to be direct and blunt to win over voters.
"Victory for any candidate is up to the candidate," he said, encouraging those in the audience to back office-seekers they believe in and who can communicate their principles in a way that's direct and understandable to people — traits many Christie backers say are his biggest strengths.
"We better be straight, honest, direct, blunt and understandable. And it would be nice if we had some good ideas, too," he said.
He stressed the need to elect candidates who believe in protecting individual liberties, which he said should be protected — not dictated — by government.
"Those are not given to us by the government," he said. "Those are given by God and the government is supposed to be there to enforce and protect those liberties and freedoms, not to determine how we exercise them."
Another attendee raised concerns about government overreach into areas including health care and education, and pointed specifically to Common Core standards — the voluntary national benchmarks that spell out what children should know in certain grades. The standards are unpopular among many conservative voters, who see them as an attempt to nationalize education.
Christie, who has been an increasingly vocal critic of the standards, took a shot at President Barack Obama for what the governor described as relying too much on government to solve problems.
"The current president's belief is that government is the solution to every problem and that no matter what ill or problem, real or perceived, is out there, that there is a government agency with a new program out of Washington that is best accustomed to fixing it," he said.
Christie also upped his rhetoric on the New Jersey budget, warning that the state would eventually go bankrupt without an overhaul of the public workers' pension and health benefit systems.
Christie has proposed freezing the existing funds and establishing a new 401(k)-style option for new workers. He then wants to use savings from lower health care costs to pay off existing liabilities.