Tuesday 26 September 2017

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie launches campaign for Republican presidential nomination

Republican U.S. presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Republican U.S. presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie launched an uphill run for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday with his trademark bluster, offering up his blunt talk and willingness to tackle tough issues as the cure for an ailing country.

Christie, once seen as a top 2016 White House contender but now viewed as a long shot, said his dose of New Jersey straight talk could fix a dysfunctional political system and erase the partisan divide in Washington.

"I mean what I say and I say what I mean, and that's what America needs right now," Christie told friends, family and supporters at a launch rally at his old high school in suburban Livingston, New Jersey. "Truth and hard decisions today will lead to growth and opportunity tomorrow."

The 52-year-old governor criticized the leaders of both parties, and derided what he called Democratic President Barack Obama's "hand-wringing and indecisiveness and weakness in the Oval Office."

"Both parties have failed our country," said Christie. "Both parties have led us to believe that in America, a country built on compromise, that somehow compromise is a dirty word."

The campaign launch gave Christie a chance to rejuvenate his sagging poll numbers and recast his battered image after last year's "Bridgegate" lane closure scandal.

Christie is the 14th Republican to enter the race for the nomination ahead of the November 2016 election. He faces a difficult challenge regaining his former status near the top of the heap.

He has seen his standing in national polls in the Republican race dip to the low single digits. His approval ratings in his home state have fallen to new lows amid a series of credit downgrades and weak job growth.

Conservatives, a key force in the early Republican primaries, have been suspicious of Christie's record of working at times with Democrats in Democratic-leaning New Jersey. They still resent his hug and warm words for Obama after superstorm Sandy in the final days of the 2012 presidential race.

But Christie has cultivated his in-your-face image, once telling a heckler to "sit down and shut up" and getting into frequent shouting matches with New Jersey residents who challenge him.

Following the announcement, he headed out on the campaign trail to New Hampshire, where he will hold the first of what is expected to be a series of town hall sessions he hopes will help turn his reputation for plain speaking into an asset.

"You're going to get what I think whether you like it or not," Christie said during his launch rally, which did not feature a prepared text or a teleprompter.

Christie's approval ratings began falling during the controversy over lane closings orchestrated by his aides in September 2013 for the approach to the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and New York City, the busiest bridge in the country.

Some critics said the closings were political retribution against a Democratic New Jersey mayor who refused to endorse Christie's re-election campaign. Christie has disavowed knowledge of the closures.

A former ally of the governor pleaded guilty to federal charges in the scandal in May, and two others were indicted.

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