New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, laboring to remain relevant in the presidential race, urged Republican activists Saturday to embrace a long nominating process – presumably one benefiting a potential candidate, such as Christie, lagging in current polls.
Speaking at the California Republican Party’s biannual convention, Christie continued to press his case that the election is far from over.
“Take a deep breath everybody,” he said. “We are 21 months away from electing our next president.”
Christie’s speech came after meetings with potential donors in Southern California, San Francisco and Sacramento. Failed gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was among the sponsors of his San Francisco event on Friday night.
The New Jersey governor planned to travel to the Los Angeles area for more donor meetings after speaking at the convention.
Christie’s success in New Jersey has long been viewed by California Republicans as a source of inspiration: He overcame a Democratic voter registration advantage to win election in 2009, a feat any Republican running for statewide office in California would also have to accomplish. In Ronald Reagan’s home state, Christie repeatedly invoked the former president and California governor’s name.
“Ronald Reagan understood the resiliency of our people,” he said. “He believed, just like I do today, that this country and its citizens can accomplish what is being asked of them.”
Christie has drawn criticism from conservatives for his cooperation with President Barack Obama following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and for his hedges on immigration reform. He has suffered, as well, from the scandal over punitive lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in 2013.
In a February Field Poll of likely California voters, Christie lagged far behind, registering just 3 percent support.
“He’s way down in our poll,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll. “He hasn’t had what you would call a very good six months, that’s for sure.”
Still, Christie drew a standing ovation from delegates on Saturday.
He called the White House’s shunning of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress on Tuesday a “national disgrace.”
Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress has been a source of controversy, as he comes at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner in an event not coordinated with the White House.
Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.