For a brash New Jersey pol, Governor Chris Christie was out of character Thursday when he whisked into Boston, addressed a national Republican gathering, and blew town without a word to the press.
With a gaggle of national and local news media eager to get the usually voluble governor to mouth off, Christie remained behind the closed doors of Grand Ballroom A at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel as he spoke to a luncheon gathering at a summer meeting of the Republican National Committee.
The nonpublic appearance drew agitated demands by the news media to attend the event, but the RNC’s director of communications stood firm.
“It’s a business meeting of the party,’’ insisted Sean Spicer. He noted the session had been billed for weeks as closed to the press.
Inside, Christie didn’t appear to disappoint, according to party officials. He displayed some of his famous in-your-face pugnacity, but he also vowed to help the GOP in the 2014 midterm elections. He urged the crowd to proudly display their confidence in Republican principles. He warned the party needs to shed its image of waging war on women and to challenge every local election, the officials said.
“I’ve seen him several times before and his delivery is really getting better.” — Kirsten Hughes, Mass. GOP chair
Christie has taken heat from many in the GOP for working closely with President Obama just days before the 2012 election as federal and New Jersey officials grappled with the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. With many saying he undermined Mitt Romney’s presidential bid, Christie has refused to back down. He repeated that defiant tone Thursday.
“He basically said, ‘Get over it, it was nine months ago,’ ’’ said Kirsten Hughes, the Massachusetts Republican Party chair.
She came away impressed. “He’s a Jersey kind of guy and that’s the kind of political figure I like,’’ Hughes said.
She said Christie never mentioned the 2016 presidential election, a contest in which many think the governor — if he is reelected next year — will be a serious contender. His only hint, she said, came when he said he wanted to be involved in shaping the party’s future.
“I’ve seen him several times before and his delivery is really getting better,’’ Hughes said. “He was extremely impressive.”
Hughes said that if there was some gnashing of teeth in the ballroom, it was hardly evident when Christie wrapped up his speech with a standing ovation from the crowd.
Still, his decision to avoid press coverage comes just weeks after he attacked the party’s Tea Party libertarian factions, including one of its leading figures, Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican. Last month Christie ripped into Paul and his followers, saying their “strain of libertarianism . . . is a very dangerous thought.’’
Christie’s attack provoked a public spat with Paul, a war of words that analysts think are the initial skirmishes of what will likely be the basis of heated debates in 2016 GOP presidential primary battles.
The RNC is holding its summer meeting in Boston this week as part of its effort to retool and update its lagging campaign data and technology infrastructure, and to reevaluate its approach to women, Latinos, and younger voters.
Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.