WASHINGTON – The morning after listening to a president they have tired of, a number of House Republicans gathered here to listen to Gov. Christie, a man some of them would like to see delivering future State of the Union speeches.
The informal meet and greet just steps from the Capitol gave Christie a chance to introduce himself to lawmakers who may not have seen him up close, but who are keen to learn more about the potential 2016 presidential candidate, participants said.
"He's clearly looking for the opportunity to introduce himself to more people as he makes a decision," said U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.), a home state ally.
U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), helped arrange the event at a stately townhouse. The two are old friends from the time when they were both U.S. Attorneys – Christie in New Jersey and Meehan in Pennsylvania's Eastern District. Meehan, of Delaware County, was passing out cards last night inviting colleagues to the event.
"It was a nice chance for him to talk with our colleagues to give a sense of comfort that they could be comfortable with him as a leader if he decides to put his hat into the ring," Meehan said, praising Christie's vision and communications skills.
Christie gave his own thoughts on President Obama's speech as he left: "I thought it was a bit disconnected from reality, but not (the) least bit surprised. It was a campaign speech. I thought he had an opportunity to try to unite the country last night and he didn't take it, and that's' unfortunate."
After the event -- described as an informal meet-and-greet with a handful of Republican House members -- Christie also spent about 30 minutes discussing Iran and foreign policy with Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.), one of the Senate's leading proponents of sanctions on Iran (along with New Jersey Democrat, Bob Menendez). Christie has reportedly been studying foreign affairs as he decides whether to run.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (R., Mich)., another of the organizers, said lawmakers from across the country came to hear from Christie. She specifically mentioned that there were House members there from Iowa and New Hampshire, the states with the first two nominating contests.
Describing her affinity for Christie, Miller said that in her corner of Michigan, "we like blunt. It sells well there. We want the unvarnished truth."
New Jersey and Pennsylvania Republican House members were in heavy attendance, many of them familiar with the governor already. Among them were Ryan Costello, of Chester County, South Jersey's Tom MacArthur, Allentown's Rep. Charlie Dent and New Jersey's Leonard Lance and Rodney Frelinghuysen.
"I've often felt that the country was ready for a big guy with an attitude from Jersey," Dent said. "I think many of the members who were here today want to learn more about Gov. Christie. Obviously they don't know him as well as we do, so I think that was really the point of the exercise today, to introduce him."
Christie arrived with his top political advisor, Bill Palatucci, his close friend and former attorney general Jeff Chiesa – who also served as a senator – and communications director Maria Comella.
Christie, who later in the day was scheduled to attend the swearing in of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, said he told lawmakers "exactly what I've said to them before – which is they have an obligation to govern."
MacArthur hoped he was seeing a man preparing to seek the presidency.
"Last night felt tired to me, the president felt tired, nothing original. It was like a man searching for something to say and I don't think that's our governor," MacArthur said. "Our governor has a vision for our state and we'll see if he has a vision for our country (and) that he wants to run for the presidency."