TAMPA, Fla. -- With a rowdy fist-pump, blunt and brash New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lit a fire under the Republican National Convention, labeling Democratic President Barack Obama part of the complacent status quo.
"It's been easy for our leaders to say not us, and not now, in taking on the tough issues. And we've stood silently by and let them get away with it," the first-term Republican governor said with a rock star's rasp during the keynote address Tuesday night. "But tonight, I say enough."
His mission was to make the case against Obama and fire up a convention delayed in its start by a tropical storm.
Like a coach before a football game, Christie implored the thousands inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum to rally behind GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan.
"Everybody stand up. There's no time left to waste," the outspoken former prosecutor shouted.
"What will our children and grandchildren say of us? Will they say we buried our heads in the sand, we assuaged ourselves with the creature comforts we've acquired, that our problems were too big and we were too small, that someone else should make a difference because we can't?" he told his fellow Republicans. "Or will they say we stood up and made the tough choices needed to preserve our way of life?
Judging by the thundering cheers inside the arena, Christie hit his mark. That outspoken style made him a Republican Party star and helped earn him the plum, prime-time speaking gig.
He rocketed up the GOP ranks in 2009, winning the Democratic-heavy Eastern state the year after Obama was elected and establishing a reputation as confrontational to big labor and public employees. Early in the GOP nominating campaign, Republicans uninspired by Romney aggressively urged Christie to seek the nomination.
New York delegate David Shimkin said he admired Christie's frankness. "He doesn't seem to have a filter. A lot of candidates don't do that," Shimkin said.
As keynote speaker, Christie was tasked with making the prime-time pitch for Romney, who remains something of a mystery to voters even though polls show him locked in a close contest with Obama.
Christie considered running for the nomination himself but months ago decided to endorse Romney, who made a personal entreaty for Christie's support as the GOP primaries were getting under way.
Christie on Tuesday waved off a published report that he had turned down an offer to be Romney's running mate because he didn't think Romney could win in November.
"Not only do I believe he can win, I think he will win," Christie told "CBS This Morning."
Temperamentally and stylistically the opposite of the buttoned-up Romney, Christie acknowledged in interviews that the former Massachusetts governor has work to do to close the sale with some voters, especially women.
"Mitt Romney's going to have to win this campaign. He's going to have to let the American people see who he is," Christie said on ABC's "Good Morning America," adding that Romney's choice Ryan as his running mate had brought more energy to the ticket.
After he toppled Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009, national Republicans embraced Christie for his tough talk on fiscal matters and for taking on public employee unions, especially teachers. Web videos of Christie berating teachers at town hall meetings quickly went viral, giving Christie a large national audience. Critics dubbed him "Gov. YouTube," suggesting he was more interested in getting publicity for himself than for improving New Jersey's finances.
Democrats warned that viewers shouldn't buy Christie's claim of a "Jersey comeback." They pointed to economic data showing the state still grappling with weak employment and high property taxes.
"Chris Christie is taking the stage in Tampa tonight to talk about his favorite topic: himself," state Assemblyman John Wisniewski told reporters during a conference call before the speech. "Gov. Christie's record in New Jersey is certainly not a model for our nation, and the people in Tampa should know that."
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and a likely 2016 presidential contender, went further, saying he expected Christie to deliver an "angry, Don Rickles keynote extolling the virtues of their candidate, Mitt Romney, who had one of the worst job creation rates in the nation."
Fouhy reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Brian Bakst in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.
"It's Not My Time" (3 Doors Down)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/04/chris-christie-2012-decision-_n_993910.html" target="_hplink">(Oct. 4, 2011) --</a></strong> Christie announced that he will not run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, vowing that "now is not my time." He quipped to New Jersey residents "whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me."
"Need You Now" (Lady Antebellum)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/11/chris-christie-mitt-romney_n_1005601.html" target="_hplink"><strong>LEBANON, N.H. (Oct. 11, 2011) --</strong></a> After dismissing calls to run for president himself, Christie endorsed Romney, telling the GOP that he is the candidate we need now.
"How Do I Live" (LeAnn Rimes)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/07/chris-christie-town-hall_n_1133756.html" target="_hplink">WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (Dec. 7, 2011) --</a></strong> At a local town hall, Christie did not take kindly to a <a href="http://videos.nj.com/star-ledger/2011/12/video_chris_christie_asked_if.html" target="_hplink">constituent's question</a> about how his administration conducts these types of meetings. He showed the individual little mercy, going "if I plant questions, why the hell did I call on you?"
"Can You Feel The Love Tonight" (Elton John)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/08/chris-christie-mic-checked-occupy-wall-street_n_1136762.html" target="_hplink">(Dec. 8, 2011) --</a></strong> Occupy Wall Street protesters interrupted Christie during an appearance in Iowa, making him a target of the movement's "mic check" trend.
"Shut Up" (The Black Eyed Peas)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/chris-christie-warren-buffett_n_1294579.html" target="_hplink">(Feb. 21, 2012) --</a></strong> In an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, Christie had some choice words for Warren Buffett, surrounding the billionaire investor's desire to be taxed at a higher rate. "Just write a check and shut up," he remarked.
"American Idiot" (Green Day)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/christie-argues-with-veteran_n_1334963.html" target="_hplink">(March 9, 2012) --</a></strong> Christie argued with a former Navy SEAL over the New Jersey's plans to reconfigure public universities. The result? Some fire from the governor's tongue, as he called the veteran an "idiot."
"Call Me Maybe" (Carly Rae Jepsen)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/13/chris-christie-talks-vp-p_n_1423271.html" target="_hplink">(April 13, 2012) --</a></strong> Throughout Mitt Romney's run for the White House, Christie made it known that he was open to a vice presidential nod (should Romney ask him).
"Rocky Ground" (Bruce Springsteen)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/19/chris-christie-sleeping-bruce-springsteen-_n_1438337.html" target="_hplink">(April 19, 2012) --</a></strong> Christie vehemently denied reports that he was sleeping at a Bruce Springsteen concert in New York City. <em><strong>
"I Don't Really Care" (Waka Flocka Flame)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/chris-christie-jimmy-kimmel_n_1465608.html" target="_hplink">(April 30, 2012) --</a> Christie responded to jokes comedian Jimmy Kimmel made about his weight at the 2012 White House Correspondents Dinner, throwing Sofia Vergara into the mix. "I figured I was in the zone of danger," he said.
"Ready Or Not" (The Fugees)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/14/chris-christie-gop-keynote-convention_n_1774525.html" target="_hplink">(Aug. 14, 2012) --</a></strong> After entertaining the idea of running for president and making Mitt Romney's short list of VP candidates, Christie was named the keynote speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention. "I'll try to tell some very direct and hard truths to people in the country about the trouble that we're in and the fact that fixing those problems is not going to be easy for any of them," he told <em>USA Today</em>.