WASHINGTON (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faulted his party Wednesday for its unwelcoming tone at times to minority voters.
In a speech to a Latino Coalition small business conference, the potential Republican presidential contender also boasted about getting 51 percent of the Hispanic vote in his re-election as governor.
Christie portrays himself as the kind of Republican who can attract females, blacks, Hispanics and other voters who are normally drawn to Democrats.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, won just 27 percent of the Latino vote in his contest against President Barack Obama — a disconnect that intensified interest among some Republicans in expanding the party's appeal to a broader spectrum of people, especially the growing Hispanic vote.
The GOP "has been guilty in some respects of speaking in a way that does not sound very welcoming to new members," Christie said. "If you want to be a leader in this country, you have to first reach your hand out and change the tone of our national conversation."
If Christie chooses to run for the nomination, he will face challengers who have already begun an aggressive outreach to Hispanic voters. One of them is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who speaks Spanish. And another is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is Cuban American.
Christie credited his meetings with communities across New Jersey for his gains with Latinos and others in his re-election campaign. He was riding high in opinion polls in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and faced an opponent who gained little traction.
He said his experience "tells you that if we change the way that we hear each other, if you treat each other with respect, even when we disagree, we can bring people together."
Christie says he will decide this month whether to run for the Republican nomination.
Colvin reported from Newark, N.J.