Gov. Chris Christie's rousing speech on leadership — the need for straight-talking candor, bipartisan compromise and tough, unpopular decisions —struck a chord with the New Jersey business community during his keynote speech to the Republican National Convention Tuesday night.
Thomas Bracken, president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said Christie's words on leadership "totally resonate with business people, who know that if you are going to be successful, you have to have strong leaders. And that message came through loud and clear." Bracken stressed that the nonpartisan chamber does not endorse political candidates.
Bracken said Christie cast a very positive light on the state, but wished he spoke longer, and was more impromptu. "That is when he does his best work, but under the circumstances, and the time constraints, he did very well."
John E. Harmon, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, said, "The governor was very strong, he was passionate, and I thought he gave a description of what he thought it would take to become the next president of the United States, given some of the challenges. He articulated a number of personal examples in which he was able to get concessions from opposing forces in the state."
Harmon said the speech no doubt resonated with business leaders. "I think business leaders always like to hear clarity, they like to hear strength and determination, and I think the governor exemplified that. But moreover, I think he talked about being able to push forth an agenda against opposition. Because making hard decisions sometimes is part of being a leader, and everybody is not going to like you and I think those are characteristics of leaders who get things done at times."
Harmon said looking at the crowd of Republicans attending the convention, "it is evident that the Republican Party has to do a lot to be in line with the 21st Century. America is becoming a darker shade, and I think the Republican Party has to do a better job of representing a broader collection of people, and I think they are struggling for that perspective."
For Melanie Willoughby, senior vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, "a key element of his speech was talking about the need to be honest with the people of your state and country; that you have to tell them what are the tough issues facing them, and that there have to be tough decisions made. And that the people will be far more with you if you are honest with them."
Laurie Ehlbeck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said, "The most important thing he said was it's important on the national level to do what we have done on the state level, which is work across the aisle to implement things that are important to business."
Ehlbeck said while several of her members are pleased with Christie's accomplishments so far, they are still waiting for significant tax relief.
As for Christie's often discussed 2016 presidential prospects, "In the next few years, if Christie is able to bring substantial tax relief to New Jersey, he will definitely be a hero. We believe it is something he has been working hard for and he is working across the aisle. But he needs to have the Legislature behind him 100 percent, and right now they have not come to that compromise. It is an ongoing part of his agenda that we are looking forward to him fulfilling."