PALM HARBOR _ Maybe the spicy chorizo sausage woke up Florida's delegates, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie brought them to their feet Thursday morning as he delighted the crowd with his comical story-telling and blunt-talking admonitions.
“I don’t think our convention needs to be about making the case for Barack Obama. The case has been made against Barack Obama,” he said. Republicans must persuade voters they are '"the party of big ideas," and can-do leaders, he said, and counter the people who have become cynical and say "it doesn’t matter who you vote for, they’re all the same.’’
Christie repeated many of the themes of his Prime Time convention speech from Tuesday night and urged the party faithful to "do the big things," "tell the truth" and communicate a broad message.
That message, he said, should not sugar coat. "We can’t any longer just whistle a happy tune to folks because the public is a lot smarter than the politicians give them credit for.”
He listed the GOP state leaders who have made a difference, Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Susana Martinez of New Mexico. (Notably absent from his list was Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.)
By contrast, he said, Obama doesn't know how to lead and instead comes across "like a guys walking around in a dark room searching for the light switch of leadership."
He drew peels of laughter from the crowd when he described how Mitt and Ann Romney came to visit on short notice last October, in search of Christie's endorsement. The couple scrambled to clean the house and "have the talk" with their four kids. When the Romney's arrived, their middle child, 12-year-old Patrick, greeted them on roller blades, practically careening into Mitt while their 9-year-old daughter, Bridget, competed for attention by showing off her gymnastics in the year.
Romney engaged the kids, spoke to them with sincerity and won Christie over with his heart. "He's characterized so unfairly as a CEO, reserved, a person who doesn't show his heart,'' he said. "My kids were drawn to him and if I had any doubt in my mind who I was going to endorse after his interaction with my two children I had no doubt left."
"The one thing you can’t get on a resume is what’s in here,’’ he said, patting his heart.
The crowd loved it and, as Christie left, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had to pause the morning program as people rushed to the stage to shake Christie's hand and get a photo. "The Boss is in the house," Putnam joked. "But he has to leave to get to the South Carolina delegation,'' he said, referring to New Jersey's other famous son, Bruce Springsteen.
Christie's remarks were preceded by speeches from U.S. Rep. Allan West, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and followed by Republican Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack and Newt Gingrich.