TIME 2016 Election

Watch 5 Elevator Pitches from 2016 GOP Contenders

Cruz, Paul, Christie, Walker and Fiorina make their best argument in less than a minute

The Republican politicians who hope to be the party’s presidential nominee in 2016 have some very different theories about why they would be best.

Not all of them have perfected the message they’ll take to next year’s primaries. But some of them have given a good preview of their best elevator pitch and they have very different arguments on what it takes to win.

Below are five one-minute excerpts of speeches by contenders for the GOP presidential nomination.

Sen. Ted Cruz

The setting: The 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual event for grassroots organizers

What he said: “When you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”

The argument: The Texas Senator argued that Republicans lost recent elections when their candidates “stood for nothing” and that the party should pick a strongly conservative candidate to draw a contrast with Democrats.

Sen. Rand Paul

The setting: The 2014 CPAC convention

What he said: “It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must elect men and women of principle.”

The argument: The Kentucky Senator made a similar argument to Cruz, but the difference is that he is pitching a libertarian strand of thought to draw a contrast with politicians of both parties.

Gov. Chris Christie

The setting: The 2012 Republican National Convention

What he said: “It’s possible to work together, achieve principled compromise and get results. The people have no patience for any other way.”

The argument: Though he was talking about then-nominee Mitt Romney, the New Jersey Governor’s argument that voters are looking for politicians who can cross the aisle also fits his own potential candidacy.

Gov. Scott Walker

The setting: The Iowa Freedom Summit, a gathering of grassroots conservatives

What he said: “”If you’re not afraid to go big and go bold, you can actually get results. And if you get the job done, the voters will actually stand up with you.”

The argument: The Wisconsin Governor’s message is a blend of Cruz and Christie. He calling for politicians to stand on principle, but also making the case that results matter.

Carly Fiorina

The setting: The Iowa Freedom Summit

What she said: “Our founders actually never envisioned a professional political class. They envisioned that … leaders would emerge from agriculture or commerce and would serve their nation.”

The argument: The former Hewlett-Packard CEO argued that voters weren’t seeking politicians who compromise or don’t, but rather the clean break that an outsider would bring.

TIME 2016 Election

Christie Walks Back Measles Vaccine Comments

Chris Christie
Patrick Semansky—AP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks with reporters as he leaves an inaugural ceremony for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in Annapolis, Md. on Jan. 21, 2015.

Republican 2016 hopeful splits with Obama but then backtracks

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that the government should “balance” parent choice and public health when it comes to measles vaccinations, in comments that broke with President Barack Obama—and prevailing science on the issue. His office quickly walked back the comments and said Christie believes “there is no question kids should be vaccinated.”

The initial comment from the 2016 Republican presidential contender came during remarks to reporters in England, the Washington Post reports, and follows news that a measles outbreak in the United States has infected more than 100 people in 14 states.

“Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health,” Christie said. “I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

MORE: Meet the Latest Driver of the Anti-Vaccine Clown Car

Christie’s office later sought to clarify his remarks and sent reporters a full transcript showing that Christie made a point not to side with vaccination skeptics when asked if he thinks the shots are dangerous.

“I didn’t say that,” Christie said, according to the transcript. “I said different disease types can be more lethal so that the concern would be measuring whatever the perceived danger is by vaccine and we’ve had plenty of that over a period of time versus what the risk to public health is and you have to have that balance and that’s exactly what I mean by what I said.”

“The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated,” Christie’s office said. “At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate.”

Anti-vaccination activists say the shots can lead to autism and other conditions, but the overwhelming scientific consensus says that’s not the case. Christie’s statement came the day after Obama called on parents to vaccinate their children.

“The science is, you know, pretty indisputable,” Obama told NBC News. “We’ve looked at this again and again. There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren’t reasons to not.”

Christie struck a notably different public health stance at the height of the Ebola fears in the U.S., forcibly quarantining a nurse who had returned from treating patients in Africa despite her testing negative for the virus—and also against the advice of public health experts.

Christie is traveling to England on a trade mission that is largely seen as an attempt to boost his foreign policy credentials ahead of a likely 2016 run.

TIME 2016 Election

Lindsey Graham Forces Foreign Policy On 2016 GOP Field

Senator Lindsey Graham
Samuel Corum—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Senator Lindsey Graham speaks at a press conference in Washington on January 13, 2015.

The talk on the trail these days is focused on Main Street. But that could change.

At the moment his staff hit publish on a new pre-presidential campaign website, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham had distinguished himself from the rest of the already unwieldy Republican 2016 field. “Security Through Strength,” was the name of his new group, with a military-style combat unit shield as its logo.

Foreign policy would be Graham’s focus, and his tack would be unmistakable: He would be the candidate who could update Ronald Reagan’s Cold War vision of “Peace Through Strength” for the ongoing battle against radical Islam. Visitors had to read a couple hundred words of filler before any mention of domestic policy appeared. “Graham is also a leader in cutting spending,” the copy reads. Also, as if it were an afterthought.

As a political strategy, this was a bold move, given that most of his challengers have been focused their rhetorical fire on the cause du jour, the economic frustrations of the struggling American middle class. But then presidential campaigns rarely end where they begin, as Graham’s biggest backer, Arizona Sen. John McCain learned well in his 2008 race. That contest began squarely in McCain’s wheelhouse, as a foreign policy debate over the Iraq War. But it ended with an economic crises that McCain was not equipped to handle. “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should,” he was on record admitting in 2007.

There is a real potential for 2016 to follow the same pattern in reverse. Domestically, the economy remains stuck in neutral for most Americans, but gas prices are dropping, the labor market is firming, and the ground may be set for incomes begin to rise again. Overseas, however, the world is as tumultuous as it has been in a decade, with terrorist attacks in Europe, a virtual proxy war bubbling up between NATO and Russia in Ukraine, tense nuclear negotiations with Iran and Sunni radicals redrawing national boundaries in the Middle East.

In this environment, Graham stands relatively alone in clearly presenting a foreign policy vision. “I don’t think we’re anywhere close to the point where we need to be,” former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told TIME. Bolton is contemplating a run for president to keep foreign policy in the national conversation. “Having two paragraphs in a stump speech should not be confused with having a foreign policy,” he said.

Some would-be candidates have talked about foreign policy more than others. On Sunday evening at a panel hosted by a group affiliated with the Koch brothers, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who sits on the Foreign Relations committee, had as much criticism for the governors as he had for ideological rival Sen. Rand Paul, who has presented a more modest vision of U.S. power abroad. “Taking a trip to some foreign city for two days does not make you Henry Kissinger,” Rubio said, in apparent reference to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was at the Koch event and is planning a trip to the United Kingdom next month.

Similarly, Mitt Romney has made clear that foreign policy will be a central theme of his third run, should he choose to continue with the race. “The President’s dismissal of real global threats in his State of the Union address was naive at best and deceptive at worst,” Romney said Wednesday, in a speech before students in Mississippi.

But other Republicans, especially the deep bench of governors with White House ambitions, have yet to find their footing. Instead of offering a vision, they have been focused on schooling themselves in the arts of international trade craft.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been receiving briefings by a team including Bob Zoellick, the former president of the World Bank and U.S. Trade Representative, and Brian Hook, a former assistant secretary of state and Romney campaign advisor. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been soliciting briefings from foreign and domestic policy experts for more than a year to study up for a second campaign. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has co-authored a hawkish foreign policy white paper last year with former Sen. Jim Talent. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who launched his political organization this week, is expected to start receiving policy briefings in the next several weeks, with Marc Thiessen, the American Enterprise Institute scholar—and co-author of Walker’s book—expected to play a key role.

The former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, supported his brother’s foreign policy while in office, but has rarely spoken out on more recent threats. Last month he called for strengthening, rather than weakening, the U.S. embargo on Cuba, for instance. It is not clear whether he has started formal briefings, but he has been reaching out to an array of experts in recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the calls.

Some Senate aides have pointed out that the state leaders could find themselves at a steep disadvantage in the general election. “We need someone who can credibly push back against Hillary Clinton’s failed record,” said an aide to one Senator eyeing the White House. “And the governors can’t do that.”

But governors may also have an advantage, not having their foreign policy so clearly defined before they run. Paul has been largely defined as an isolationist, while Rubio and Graham are affiliated with neo-conservatives, and Ted Cruz is has taken a hawkish line on many issues but favors budget cuts to defense programs.

“We don’t know very much of the foreign policy viewpoints of Jeb, Christie, and Walker,” said a veteran Republican policy aide to presidential candidates. “They have an opportunity to formulate and articulate the worldview that makes the most sense given time and space.”

That strategy works better if no one is forcing foreign policy questions into the debate at this early point in the cycle. In other words, a good day for Lindsey Graham, who enjoys easy access to the national press off the Senate floor, may be a bad one for many of his rivals in the months to come.

TIME Campaign Finance

How National Kingmakers Flooded State Elections With Cash

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives the annual State of the State address on Jan. 13, 2015 in Trenton, New Jersey.
Andrew Burton—Getty Images New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during his State of the State address on Jan. 13, 2015 in Trenton, New Jersey.

The top 50 contributors spent more than $440 million in 2014 races.

If money is influence, the Republican Governors Association wielded more of it than anyone else last year in state elections nationwide.

The group, led in 2014 by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, gave roughly $69 million to candidates, political parties and independent groups — more than double its Democratic counterpart — as it tried to elect Republicans to the top office in as many states as possible. The group gave more than any other donor to state-level elections last year — from races for governor to legislator to supreme court justice.

The association applied an effective strategy that’s becoming more common: giving money using multiple paths to circumvent limits on campaign contributions to candidates and parties, a Center for Public Integrity analysis has found.

In addition to the money it spent directly on TV ads and other campaign efforts, the group gave about $14 million to candidates including Illinois’ new Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. It also gave more than $3 million to state parties, including those in Texas and Maine.

The bulk of the checks it wrote, however, totaling about $50 million, went to other political groups that in turn spent the money on state races.

Its efforts largely paid off. Republicans gained four governorships in 2014 and only lost two, leaving them holding the reins in 31 states.

The group “was designed to supplement what candidates could do on their own in the states,” said Dick Thornburgh, a former Pennsylvania governor who turned the association into a powerhouse in the mid-1980s. “Obviously, it’s grown beyond that.”

Its competitor, the Democratic Governors Association, gave $32 million and ranked second among the sugar daddies of 2014, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis. The group only picked up one new governor’s mansion, with Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf defeating incumbent Republican Tom Corbett. (Alaska’s Republican incumbent was beaten by an independent, Bill Walker.)

Together, the two governors’ groups and other national political organizations gave significantly more than political parties, unions, multimillionaires or corporations that also contributed heavily to influence state-level campaigns. The donations went beyond races for governor. The funds made their way into lower-ballot contests such as attorney general, state supreme court justice and state legislator.

The national groups also cropped up on the lists of the biggest donors in most states, outgiving homegrown political players in a sign that all politics may now be national.

In all, the top 50 political givers spread more than $440 million to the people and groups pushing candidates for state office, the Center for Public Integrity found. The list is thick with billionaires such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and corporations such as telecom titan AT&T Inc.

They also were more successful in backing winners than most donors, becoming the de facto kingmakers of state politics.

“It’s an amazing amount of power concentrated in a handful of organizations,” said Ed Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics that collected some of the data used for the analysis. “If people want to understand why government is dysfunctional, you don’t have to look much farther than this list.”

The Citizens United effect

To identify the kingmakers, the Center for Public Integrity looked at donations given to 2014 state candidates and political parties during 2013 and 2014, as tracked by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Reporters also collected state and federal contribution records for 140 independent organizations that aired political TV ads during 2014 state elections.

Related: Meet the Top 50 Donors Who Influenced State Elections

The analysis does not include funders of groups that don’t disclose their donors to any state or federal agencies — so-called “dark money” groups. And it does not total overall contributions, because some donors received money from other donors on the list. [More details on the methodology.]

The findings paint a picture of independent groups playing a bigger role in financing state-level elections than even political parties or the candidates’ campaigns, one effect of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The 2010 ruling allowed many groups to accept and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and wealthy patrons to influence elections as long as they did not coordinate with the candidates. Thus, they could bypass limits on giving to a candidate or political party and leapfrog ahead.

The top 50 donors identified by the Center for Public Integrity gave more than 40 percent of their contributions to independent political groups, surpassing what they gave to either candidates or political parties.

The strategy allows donors to multiply their influence, said Larry Noble, former general counsel of the FEC who now works as an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center.

“You give the maximum to the candidates, but then you want to give more,” he said. “You give to the party committee that’s also going to support the candidate. You give to outside groups that are also going to support the candidate.”

The mega-donors thus control more of the political messages that determine which issues are central to the campaign — roles previously played by candidates and political parties. And in exchange, they may expect the newly elected officials to dance with the ones that brought them.

Behind the curtain

National political groups have their own heavy-hitting donors. But because the groups function as the middlemen of political giving, voters often don’t know the original source of the cash behind a politician’s election.

The Republican Governors Association, for one, served as a conduit for billionaires and corporations looking to influence governors’ races.

The five largest contributors behind the group’s gargantuan giving power all appear separately on the Center for Public Integrity’s top 50 donor list: Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson; billionaire David Koch, who runs the Kansas-based Koch Industries with his brother; electricity giant Duke Energy; investment firm ETC Capital, whose founder, Manoj Bhargava, also founded the company behind the 5-Hour Energy drink; and billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Singer, according to IRS records from 2013 and 2014.

Meanwhile, four of the five largest contributors to the counterpart Democratic Governors Association were also familiar names from the top 50 list: Michael Bloomberg and branches of three labor unions — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union.

The Republican and Democratic governors’ associations employ another common strategy that both amplifies and obfuscates their giving: contributing to “an outside group with a good-sounding name” to make support of a candidate look more diverse and to help attract different constituencies, Noble said.

For example, state records collected by the Center for Public Integrity show that the Democratic Governors Association gave more than $6 million to a group called Making Colorado Great, while the Republican Governors Association gave nearly $5.5 million to Grow Connecticut. The Colorado and Connecticut organizations then spent millions airing TV ads in their states’ respective gubernatorial contests.

“It’s name branding,” Noble said. “If you were a teacher and you see an ad from a teachers union, you’re going to give it a lot more credibility than an ad from the DGA.”

Diverse giving becomes trendy

All but a handful of the top 50 mega-donors used more than one avenue to spread their gifts. And most gave money to influence races in more than one state.

Billionaire hedge-fund manager Kenneth Griffin, for example, gave more than $4.6 million before the election to the campaign committee of Rauner, the Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Worth about $5.5 billion, according to Forbes, Griffin and his soon-to-be ex-wife Anne also gave at least $2.2 million to independent political groups that backed state candidates, such as the Republican Governors Association, and more than $500,000 to state GOP parties in Illinois and Florida.

A representative for Griffin declined to comment.

Some of the top donors also gave widely. Sixteen of the top 50 contributors gave to 50 or more state-level candidates running in 2014.

Getting what they paid for

Nearly 85 percent of the candidates backed directly by the top 50 donors won their elections in 2014, a far better success rate than the typical political contributor, who backed winners only 52 percent of the time.

Duke Energy, for example, had a 94 percent success rate after supporting 381 different candidates.

For corporations, in particular, political giving is a way to ensure a seat at the table once a lawmaker is elected, said Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt. Giving across the aisle improves their odds of having an ally in office come January.

“They’ll give to the incumbent and also the challenger just in case the challenger wins,” Levitt said. “They’ll give more to leadership positions because leadership positions are gateways to access for committees, for legislation, for broader regulation.”

Mass media giant Comcast picked winners in 93 percent of the more than 1,000 candidates it backed. It gave nearly $1.7 million directly to candidates, spreading it widely in 36 states.

“The contributions that the company makes are because we operate in a highly regulated industry,” said Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice, adding that most candidates backed are incumbents. “The decisions that are made by legislatures control our business.”

In addition to its national giving, the Philadelphia-based Comcast gave heavily in its home state. Top recipients were Gov. Tom Corbett and running mate Jim Cawley, both Republicans, who together raked in $107,000 from the state’s top broadband provider but lost re-election. Hedging its bet, Comcast also gave $1,000 to Wolf, who won the governorship from Corbett.

Duke Energy, another company regulated by states, divvied up more than $500,000 among the hundreds of candidates it backed, many of whom ran for office in North Carolina, where the company is headquartered.

Additionally, the electric utility donated more than $210,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Duke Energy may have been trying to boost its support in the Sunshine State, where it has faced massive criticism for charging customer fees for nuclear plants that do not — and may never — provide power. Florida’s governor and legislature are responsible for naming the members of the commission that regulates the utility and allows such fees.

“We do not make contribution decisions on single issues,” Duke Energy spokesman Chad Eaton said. “Our employee-led PAC considers an array of issues before any decisions are made.”

In general, he said, Duke Energy donates to candidates who demonstrate “support for public policy issues that are important to our business, customers and communities” in the six states where it provides electricity.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, meanwhile, gave nearly $2.7 million to 568 candidates in 34 states and had a 64 percent win rate. It contributed more than half million dollars to Democrat Pat Quinn’s failed bid to retain the Illinois governorship, but saw more success with the $410,000 it gave to Wolf’s successful run for governor in Pennsylvania. In both states, the Republican opposition had supported scaling back public pensions or preventing unions from deducting union dues directly from members’ paychecks.

Money does not always guarantee a win, of course, and a lack of funds doesn’t necessarily foretell a loss.

In Maryland’s governor’s race, former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Democrat, outraised Republican Larry Hogan several times over yet lost in one of the biggest upsets of election night. Brown was hurt by low popularity ratings that no giant war chest could fix, according to Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. And because Hogan accepted public funds for his campaign, he was limited on how much money he could spend yet also freed up to spend time on the campaign trail, not the fundraising one.

And some of the top benefactors saw little return on their campaign investments.

Billionaire physicist Charles Munger Jr., son of the Berkshire Hathaway executive of the same name, gave nearly $300,000 to 45 Republican candidates in 2014. Only 13 won for a 29 percent success rate.

The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, also fared poorly when backing candidates directly — only three of their 13 candidates won.

Allies in office

Most of the more than 6,300 state officials elected in November began work this month, shaping and creating policy across the country in 50 governors’ mansions and 99 legislative chambers — 11 of which flipped from Democratic to Republican control in the 2014 election.

For some big donors, that means the candidates they backed can now fight for their causes in state office. Or they might just be more willing to take a phone call from a benefactor who has a legislative wish list.

Noble said candidates typically know which donors they have to thank for their success — even when patrons filter their donations through independent groups.

And now, for some top givers, the real campaigning is about to begin.

Rauner, the newly sworn-in Republican governor, for one, is already gearing up for battles with the veto-proof Democratic-controlled legislature in Illinois as he pushes his stated goals of plugging the state’s budget deficit and strengthening ethics laws. He isn’t just counting on good will or smooth talking to win over potentially reluctant legislators. He’s counting on cold, hard cash to help make the case.

Rauner and two top donors, Griffin and shipping supply magnate Richard Uihlein, poured $20 million into the governor’s campaign committee in the final two days of 2014, which Rauner reportedly plans to use to back other candidates who support his policies.

Rauner’s new war chest will enable the new governor to be in a state of “perpetual campaign” — to air commercials aimed at persuading state legislators or to donate to other lawmakers’ re-election campaigns in exchange for support of Rauner’s agenda, said Christopher Mooney, director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, Springfield.

In the past, a governor might have promised state legislators financial backing for development projects in their districts or helped them acquire contracts or new jobs.

“Instead of building somebody a playground in the school, he’ll be able to donate money to their campaign,” Mooney said.

And if they don’t do want he wants? “He’ll be able to fund an opponent,” he said.

TIME 2016 Election

The Secret Meanings Behind the Names of Presidential Super PACs

Conservative Activists And Leaders Attend The Iowa Freedom Summit
Daniel Acker—Bloomberg/Getty Images Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, waves to the crowd during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015.

Long before the campaign buttons and bumper stickers, today’s presidential candidates must create an outside fundraising committee. And while they aren’t always in total control of these groups, the names can be secret decoder rings that explain the central themes of the campaigns they are preparing.

Here’s a look at the names of five groups backing 2016 candidates and what they might signal.

Right to Rise

What is it? A leadership PAC and a separate super PAC

Who does it benefit? Former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida

Where does the name come from? The “right to rise” was coined by a historian to describe President Lincoln’s views on economic opportunity. After Rep. Paul Ryan used the phrase, Bush wrote a guest editorial about it in the Wall Street Journal in 2011.

What’s it mean? The name is a sign that Bush intends to focus on pocketbook issues for the middle class, which has been stuck with stagnant wages for more than a decade. The fact he embraced the term was also a key tipoff that Ryan was not going to run.

Our American Revival

What is it? A tax-exempt 527 organization

Who does it benefit? Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin

Where does the name come from? Walker used the phrase “our American revival” in a recent statement critiquing President Obama’s State of the Union speech.

What’s it mean? The term “revival” has religious undertones that Walker, a preacher’s kid, surely recognizes. It’s also a sign he intends to run as a bold, populist counterpoint to Obama’s tenure in Washington.

Leadership Matters for America

What is it? A political action committee

Who does it benefit? Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey

Where does the name come from? Christie used the phrase “leadership matters” during his 2012 keynote speech at the Republican presidential convention for Mitt Romney.

What’s it mean? Christie is running on his own personality and leadership style. He intends to highlight his time as governor as well as his brash and sometimes confrontational style to contrast himself with Obama and his Republican opponents.

Stand for Principle

What is it? A super PAC

Who does it benefit? Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas

Where does the name come from? In a 2014 speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference, Cruz argued that Republicans need to “stand for principle” in order to win elections.

What’s it mean? Cruz intends to run as the conservative choice among the Republican field, with an orthodoxy at the center of his message that will contrast him against past nominees such as Mitt Romney and John McCain, not to mention current contenders like Christie and Bush.

Ready for Hillary

What is it? A super PAC

Who does it benefit? Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Where does the name come from? The super PAC was formed by Clinton supporters to build lists of grassroots supporters and recruit major donors before she announced a campaign.

What’s it mean? The name doesn’t portend much about Clinton’s campaign, since she didn’t choose it, at least not personally. But it does take on a central theme of the emerging Clinton juggernaut—the notion that America is now “ready” for a female president and that it’s Clinton’s turn after her 2008 primary loss.

TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Launches PAC in Preparation for 2016 Presidential Run

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines
Jim Young—Reuters Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 24, 2015

Several other Republican candidates have long-standing political groups as well

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie launched a federal political action committee, or PAC, Monday as he seeks to lay the groundwork for a likely 2016 presidential campaign.

The new group, Leadership Matters for America PAC, will allow the 52-year-old to travel the country to raise money and support like-minded politicians, but it can’t specifically advocate on his behalf. The launch comes two days after Christie appeared at a conservative cattle call in Iowa, where he sought to prove he could reach out to a skeptical party base.

The PAC’s website features a smiling Christie holding court at one of his signature town halls, and its mission statement hews closely to Christie’s rapidly developing stump speech. News of the PAC’s formation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“America has been a nation that has always controlled events and yet today events control us,” it states. “Why? Because leadership matters. It matters if we want to restore America’s role in the world, find the political will to take on the entrenched special interests that continually stand in the way of fundamental change, reform entitlement spending at every level of government, and ensure that every child, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”

Former Republican National Committee Finance chairman Ray Washburne, who announced earlier this month he would step down to take a position with Christie, will hold the same role for the new group. Former Republican Governors Association executive director Phil Cox and longtime Christie strategist Mike DuHaime will serve as political advisers. Matt Mowers, the outgoing New Hampshire GOP executive director, and Phil Valenziano, a former aide to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, will be the PAC’s on-the-ground presence in those two presidential early states.

Earlier this month, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush launched a leadership PAC and a super PAC in preparation for his presidential run. Several other Republican candidates have long-standing political groups as well.

Christie is set to return to Iowa on Feb. 9 to address the Dallas County Republican Party, and has planned trips across the country in coming weeks to fundraise and boost his political profile. He is not expected to make a final decision on his candidacy until the spring.

TIME 2016 Election

Christie Seeks Common Ground With Iowa Conservatives

Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie arrives to speak at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines
Jim Youg—Reuters Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie arrives to speak at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie brought a clear message to skeptical Iowa conservatives Saturday: We may not always agree, but you can work with me.

Christie spoke toward the end of a daylong 2016 presidential cattle call hosted by Iowa Representative Steve King, highlighting his fights with unions in his home state and his pro-life stance on abortion. Christie’s participation in the event turned heads, given King’s hard-line position on immigration and the audience’s more conservative bent. Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney both skipped the event on account of scheduling issues, and proved to be frequent targets on stage from other would-be candidates and activists.

Christie has spent years trying to reach across the aisle in preparation for a presidential run but has been dogged by questions whether he could win over the party’s base.

“I have heard and read all the conventional wisdom that somehow a guy from New Jersey would not be welcomed or understood at the Iowa Freedom Summit — that somehow I’m too loud, I’m too blunt, and I’m too direct,” Christie said, as the crowd chuckled. “The conventional wisdom from Washington, D.C., that says we aren’t friends … They’re wrong again today.”

King used his introduction to boost Christie’s conservative credentials. “He vetoed the gay-marriage bill in New jersey,” he said. “He is pro-life.” Christie has since declared gay marriage a “settled” issue in his state after the state supreme court declined to stop same-sex unions in 2013.

Speaking calmly and slowly, Christie was self-effacing about “the blunt New Jersey stuff,” using it to introduce himself to Iowa voters with the story of his childhood.

“In a trusting relationship, you need to tell people what you really believe and what you’re thinking,” he said, noting he’s sure that not everyone would agree with him on every issue. “You’ll always know who I am, you’ll always know what I believe, and you’ll always know where I stand.”

He argued that if the party is looking for purity, “we will never win another national election. Ever.”

Reading off prepared remarks, Christie’s speech was an amalgamation of his notable addresses of the past several years, presenting the clearest preview of a full-fledged presidential stump speech.

“The next century does not have to be a Chinese century,” he said, calling for stronger American leadership overseas. “The world can’t do without a second American century.” His opposition to abortion was juxtaposed with his efforts in improving his state’s drug treatment programs to be “pro-life” at all stages of life.

He highlighted his electoral success in his blue home state, noting he won Hispanic voters and made inroads with black voters in his last election.

“We need a coalition that covers all parts of the country, all ethnicities, a coalition that is comprised at its core of our proud, yet underserved and underrepresented working class in this nation,” he said, in an implicit critique of former Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. He even alluded to growing income inequality, adding, “The rich are doing fine, that’s great. We don’t demonize the wealthy like so many folks in the Democratic Party, but nor should we cater to the wealthy at the expense of our middle-income workers and the working poor who are the backbone of every American community.”

Christie’s reception paled in comparison to Senator Ted Cruz, whose faith-themed address was red meat for the audience. But Christie accomplished what he sought out: demonstrating he is unafraid to appear before social conservatives and proving that he could even earn a standing ovation. In a crowded field where he will hope to have the support of the party’s establishment, that may be enough to go the distance.

TIME governors

Chris Christie Has Been Gifted 77 Weight-Loss Books While in Office

<> on January 13, 2015 in Trenton, New Jersey.
Andrew Burton—2015 Getty Images New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gives the annual State of the State address on January 13, 2015 in Trenton, New Jersey.

Titles include The Macho Man Diet and Leave the Cannoli, Take the Weights

Of the 1,100 gifts Chris Christie has received from the public since taking office five years ago, 600 are books, 77 of which are about diet, weight loss, exercise or bariatric surgery.

The gifts include CDs, DVDs and kits, NJ.com reports, and they come from authors and readers alike. Even Dr. Mehmet Oz sent the New Jersey governor a copy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live.

While Christie has thanked supporters who’ve noticed his weight loss since his bariatric surgery two years ago, he prefers to keep the topic of his size a private matter. We’re guessing not all 77 of these titles have a permanent home on the Christies’ bookshelves.

[NJ.com]

TIME 2016 Election

Christie’s State of the State Focused More on the Nation

Chris Christie
Julio Cortez—AP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers his State Of The State address on Jan. 13, 2015, in Trenton, N.J.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivered his fifth State of the State address Tuesday, but it sounded more like a presidential announcement.

Less than two years away from Election Day, Christie sent his firmest signal yet that he intends to run for the White House in 2016, with a decidedly national theme, coming off a 2014 spent traveling the country on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidates. “We need a New Jersey renewal and we need an American renewal,” Christie declared several months before he is expected to make his candidacy official.

The speech comes a day after Christie secured the backing of former Republican National Committee Finance Chair Ray Washburne for his future presidential campaign and a day before Christie is scheduled to attend a meet-and-greet with donors in South Carolina, a presidential early state.

Teasing at a possible presidential campaign theme, Christie says what he saw across the country during his travels was “a nation beset by anxiety.”

“It is understandable,” Christie said, delivering an implicit critique of the Obama administration. “Economic growth is low by post-war recovery standards. America’s leadership in the world is called into question because of a pattern of indecision and inconsistency.”

“We need to address this anxiety head on,” he continued. “We need to renew the spirit and the hopes of our state, our country and our people.”

Christie’s remarks contrast his leadership of New Jersey with the “Washington way,” hailing his own conservative record of opposing tax increases and holding up his leadership of the state as a model for the nation.

The governor devoted much of his address to highlighting his efforts to tackle drug addiction and mental health in the state, announcing the creation of a statewide call number to allow those in need with a one-stop access to services. He also marked a longstanding effort to turn around the long-blighted city of Camden, which has seen a surge in public and private investment under Christie after decades of decline.

The address coincides with a drop in Christie’s approval rating in the state as he eyes higher office. Christie sought to cast his state’s economic progress in a positive light, pointing to a declining unemployment rate and balanced budget, even as its reality is far murkier. The governor avoided discussing efforts to confront fiscal turmoil in Atlantic City and avoided specifics on dealing with mounting pension costs that have caused repeated credit downgrades.

The presidential hopeful briefly alluded to the ongoing drama surrounding the politically-motivated closure of approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge by Christie aides in 2013. Christie has denied wrongdoing, but a federal probe into the incident continues. “In a year with plenty of politics from some overly partisan corners of this chamber, New Jersey has made progress,” Christie said.

Illustrating the out-of-state focus of the speech, Christie met off the record with national reporters before his address, leaving out members of his state press corps.

In a web video posted Tuesday to coincide with the address, the Democratic National Committee mocked Christie’s record and presidential ambitions.

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