By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
There was high energy in Asbury Park last night as Chris Christie celebrated making the cut for the first Republican presidential debate.
He talked as if he’ll go on to win the presidency.
“We’re not only going to bring our ideas to this campaign and ultimately to the White House but we’re going to bring a little Jersey to the campaign and the White House as well. And I think you all know this — that’s going to start on Thursday night in Cleveland, Ohio,” Christie said.
About 600 supporters paid a minimum of $250 to attend and hear Christie reaffirm his connection to the state whose name is on his lapel pin.
“I wear this pin every day no matter what state I’m in and on Inauguration Day — Jan 20, 2017 — we will proudly wear this pin on the steps of the Capitol,” Christie said.
Outside Convention Hall, several hundred demonstrators tried to get their counter-message heard.
“What do we want? Resign! When do we want it? Now!”
They were a mix of teachers, liberals and Sandy victims.
“He’s had 144 town hall meetings in the state of New Jersey. He’s never come to Ortley Beach, ground zero. We certainly would appreciate it if he’d find the time to do it before his term runs out,” said Mike Wymbs of Ortley Beach.
Inside the hall — the same one in which Christie celebrated his reelection victory 21 months ago — Republicans dismissed reporters’ suggestions that the Christie campaign is sputtering.
“Well, it’s all about differentiating yourself with your message. I think he’s working at that very hard in New Hampshire, he’s talking a lot about the reforms he did here and about the reforms we need to do at the national level,” said Sen. Jennifer Beck.
“A lot of campaigns have gotten off to a slow start. I don’t know if his is one of the slowest, but I can tell you this. He knows how to make news and get an issue into the mix better than anybody I’ve ever seen,” said Jeff Bell, 2014 Republican U.S. Senate candidate.
“He is the real deal. He is the full Monty. He is the Jersey Pride. He is your governor and he will be the next president of the United States of America,” said Lieutenant Gov. Kim Guadagno.
The event took in $1.3 million, but it felt less about money and more about rallying the spirits of the home state Republicans.
“I think this night is bringing New Jersey together. Showing one, that he has support and two, raising money which he’s done really well tonight and three, I think it’s always good to come home and I think it’s important to develop some momentum on your home turf,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.
“I think he’s one of the smartest guys in the race. It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. And I think he’s going to do very well leading up to the tail end,” said Assemblyman David Rible.
Christie spent 10 minutes of his half-hour-long speech bashing President Obama on foreign policy.
He said not one country do we have better relationships with than we did six years ago and called the Iran nuclear deal Obama’s worst mistake.
“Many of you in this audience are as old as I am and can remember 1979. You remember them taking our hostages and our embassy. You remember them burning our flag, you remember them chanting ‘death to America.’ And in the 36 years since there’s only one person in the world who thinks they’ve changed their stripes and that’s Barack Obama. He’s wrong and we’re going to change the course he’s put this country on,” Christie said.
Christie sounds like a presidential candidate now. At the end of his speech he predicted he’ll be the first president from New Jersey since Woodrow Wilson.