New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered his support to Israel on Saturday, as just one of several potential 2016 presidential candidates to speak before a group of powerful GOP donors.
At a Republican Jewish Coalition event in Las Vegas, Christie said he was overwhelmed by the strength of Israel’s leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and said that many Israelis don’t believe they have the support of President Obama and his administration.
“You cannot live under that type of threat every day, and then also have to worry about whether your friends will stand up for you or not,” added Christie, who gave an extensive recounting of his recent trip to Israel with his family.
Another governor said to be eyeing the White House, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, spoke to the RJC before Christie, while Gov. John Kasich of Ohio is also scheduled to appear on Saturday.
The RJC event is being held at The Venetian Resort Casino owned by Sheldon Adelson, a heavy GOP donor worth nearly $38 billion. Adelson spent more than $150 million in the 2012 presidential election, including extensive financial support to Newt Gingrich's campaign. That move makes the billionaire all the more attractive to potential GOP standard bearers.
Christie gave the crowd an extensive charm offensive on Israel, noting, for instance, that Israelis often comment that the country is about the size of New Jersey.
But perhaps not surprisingly for governors, the speeches given by both Christie and Walker were light on specifics when it came to foreign policy, with both men speaking more broadly about the U.S. needing to show more strength abroad.
The U.S. government, Christie said, “is no longer being emulated around the world. It is being mocked around the world, as a government that can’t get out of its own way.”
Both governors, for instance, talked at length about their outreach to Hispanic voters, their support for school choice and their records on cutting taxes and standing up unions.
Christie also weighed in on a question about marijuana reform, while Walker touched on energy security. Both governors laid out a path for GOP victory in 2014.
A day after a bruising news conference back in New Jersey, Christie said that the biggest lesson he had learned following the controversy over his administration’s handling of the George Washington bridge closure was to be a lot more skeptical about what’s happening under his watch.
But the governor also clearly appreciated being in a more friendly room, quipping that “it’s great to be away from home” before receiving some admittedly softball questions from RJC’s Matt Brooks.
Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association this year, also insisted that the party needed to listen more and to get out of its comfort zone to be successful, noting that the only reason he went to Chamber of Commerce lunches was to “say thank you” and to “assuage my own ego.”
“It’s time for us to stop as a party killing each other,” Christie said. “It’s time for us to get moving towards winning.”
For his part, Walker said that Republican governors in blue states like Wisconsin and New Jersey had learned to give voters a more optimistic vision.
On the foreign policy front, Walker noted that he was concerned about the recent decline in troop levels, and even pointed out his role atop the Wisconsin National Guard. But some of his prescriptions for improved national security also centered more on the domestic policy areas - like improving the economy – where he felt more comfortable.