Ending years of speculation over a potential White House bid, Gov. Chris Christie formally announced his candidacy for president Tuesday at an event at Livingston High School, his alma mater.
“I am now ready to fight for the people of the United States of America,” Christie told supporters gathered inside the school’s gymnasium.
Christie said the decision to hold the event in Livingston was an easy one, adding that “everything started here for me.”
“When I decided to make this announcement, there wasn’t any choice,” Christie said. “I had to come home, and Livingston was home for me.”
In a nod to his campaign slogan — “Telling It Like It Is” — Christie said he’s the type of candidate that understands that “truth and hard decisions today will lead to growth and opportunity tomorrow for every American in this county.”
“I mean what I say and I say what I mean and that’s what America needs right now,” Christie said.
Christie repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama for what he deems to be a weak foreign policy strategy and added that the country “better not turn it over to his second mate, Hillary Clinton,” in a direct shot at the Democratic presidential candidate.
“In the end, everybody, leadership matters,” Christie said. “It matters for our country and it matters for the world.”
Despite calls to do so from several Republican donors at the time, Christie declined to run for president in 2012. Since then, he has enjoyed a national profile that included a successful stint from a fundraising standpoint as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a keynote address at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
But Christie also has faced some potentially damaging elements to his presidential prospects in the last few years, such as the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, concerns over the continued recovery from Hurricane Sandy and questions regarding the state’s efforts to revive its sluggish economy.
Christie has consistently polled behind many of his Republican counterparts also entering the presidential field, and his popularity within New Jersey may be cause for concern, as Christie recently recorded his all-time approval rating low of 30 percent.
Christie, however, propped up his record on the economy and Sandy in New Jersey on Tuesday as evidence of his leadership skills.
“We are going to tell it like it is today so that we can create greater opportunity for every American tomorrow,” Christie said. “The truth will set us free.”
Christie said his campaign will not be one that “tears people down,” but rather one that “rebuilds America to a place where you and I grew up.”
Rehashing a popular line of his, Christie told the crowd that he’s not running for president to be “prom king of America.”
Following the announcement, which was widely protested outside, Christie was due in New Hampshire for the first of three town hall events scheduled there this week.
Christie’s campaign also announced Tuesday that influential New Jersey developers Jon F. Hanson and Finn Wentworth, two longtime supporters and advisers, are co-chairing his finance team. The group also includes names such as Celgene Corp. executive Rich Bagger, his former chief of staff; his brother, Todd Christie; and Patrick Dunican of the influential law firm Gibbons PC.
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