SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Gov. Christie said Friday that the United States had become a "weaker" country under President Obama and that it needed a leader unafraid to "lead the world" and tell Americans the truth about addressing entitlement programs.
"America under Barack Obama has become a defensive, reactive, and weaker country both at home and abroad," Christie told about 800 people at the Macomb County Republican Party's annual Lincoln fund-raising dinner in suburban Detroit's Shelby Township.
He said Obama had presided over "dysfunction" in Washington, where "compromise is a dirty word."
Christie, in a 27-minute speech that followed a private reception, also accused the president of a "petulant and disgraceful act of absolute selfishness in attacking our greatest ally in the Middle East and the only democracy in the Middle East, in Israel."
He said Obama, by negotiating with Iran, is putting it on a "guide path" to obtaining nuclear weapons.
The Obama administration has made an accord that lessens fear about Iran's nuclear weapons potential a top foreign policy objective. Iran denies any interest in such arms but has been drawn to the negotiating table in part by the promise of a lifting of sanctions.
"When America doesn't lead, bad people with bad intentions do lead," Christie said. "We need a leader in the White House once again who knows how to lead America and lead the world."
Christie, who recently launched a super PAC that can raise unlimited money for his presidential ambitions, also brought up costlier U.S. entitlement programs without mentioning any by name. He touted changes he made to New Jersey's public pension system, such as increasing the retirement age and eliminating cost-of-living adjustments.
"This was not genius work. This is common sense. Yet we don't hear that conversation coming out of Washington, D.C. We certainly don't hear it coming out of the White House," he said.
Christie did not take questions from reporters after his speech.
Last year, he broadened his national network while raising tens of millions of dollars to help elect Republican governors such as Michigan's Rick Snyder.
"If you stand with me, I will stand with you, and we'll retake America again," Christie told the crowd.
Christie also faulted Obama for calling for new government programs.
"You never hear him talk about entitlements, except to create a new one, which nobody wants, and we need to get rid of in Obamacare," Christie said.
Christie does not have a reputation among Republicans as the most conservative of candidates, which may be a problem for him in some of the party's primary races, said Pete Lund, a former Republican state representative.
Still, Lund said Christie could do well in Michigan. "His personality will appeal quite well here," he said. "He's definitely someone who's got everybody's attention."
Macomb County is 84 percent white, home to the General Motors Co. Technical Center and 155 automotive plants and parts suppliers. The county's voters were the inspiration for the label "Reagan Democrats" by pollster Stan Greenberg, who found its white, blue-collar, union-member voters abandoning the Democratic Party to support Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Christie also made appearances this week in Texas and Philadelphia, following trips to California and Florida.
He's competing for attention with the formal entry of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, aggressive fund-raising by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and water-testing by such potential candidates as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, and Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor.
A March 18 CNN poll showed Christie tied with Rubio for sixth place among likely Republican candidates. Bush led the pack, followed by Walker.