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Christie at CPAC, Rebuilding Relationship with Conservative GOP

Governor stresses bipartisan strengths, citing record of conservative reform in a blue state

chris christie
Credit: Governor's Office/Tim Larsen

Punched by Bridgegate, kicked by Sandy controversies and spit in the face by conservatives, Gov. Chris Christie today will try to brush himself off and offer a hand in peace to a critical crowd.

Christie is in Maryland addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gathering, the most important confab of movement conservatives and an essential stop for any potential Republican candidate for president. He won't mention Bridgegate, aides say, but expect him to take three steps toward rebuilding his reputation among those who play such an important role in the GOP primaries and caucuses.

First, he will reintroduce himself to those on the right who have been distrustful of Christie's occasionally moderate approach to governance and relationships with Democrats, particularly President Obama after Sandy. He will link himself to other Republican governors, saying he has created conservative reform in a blue state -- a contrast to the partisan dysfunction of Washington.

Second, he will knock the media, which he says stereotype conservatives' messages. Break out of your comfort zone, he will advise, and find new allies. Think: Big tent.

And finally, conservatives need to stop being against stuff and start being for new ideas. That's how to win. 

The speech comes on the heels of a new FOX News poll that shows Christie down big from his 2013 numbers. Among Republicans, he now trails Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and ties with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Matt Katz is a reporter for New Jersey Public Radio/WNYC covering state politics. NJ Spotlight, in partnership with NJPR, is hosting his blog and running in-depth stories.

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