TRENTON, N.J.--Inching closer to a 2016 presidential run, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivered his fifth State of the State address Tuesday calling for a "New Jersey renewal and an American renewal."
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Christie detailed successes he said happened on his watch, themes he would likely reprise if he does run for president, but he also used the annual address to the state's lawmakers to hit the Obama administration, making the speech sound at times like the campaign had already begun.
"America’s leadership in the world is called into question because of a pattern of indecision and inconsistency," he said. "We are a nation beset by anxiety. Economic growth is low by post-war recovery standards...During this time of uncertainty it seems our leaders in Washington would rather stoke division for their own political gain."
Though it might be in the heat of a presidential campaign he promised to "be standing here" for next year's State of the State address, getting laughs and applause from Republicans in the chamber.
Christie has been heavily criticized by Democrats in the state for traveling around the country in 2014 when he led the Republican Governors Association, but he did mention those travels including Florida, Maryland, and Chicago, saying "anxiety was the most palpable emotion I saw and felt."
Christie said the "wisest words" he heard on the 2014 campaign trail came from an 82-year-old woman in Florida who asked him, "What’s happened to our country? We used to control events. Now events control us."
He said it would be New Jersey who would lead this national renewal, telling the audience, "Let me be clear. We need to address this anxiety head on. We need to renew the spirit and the hopes of our state, our country and our people."
Christie also touted victories in the state including bail reform, a cap on property tax rates, pension reform, and helping those addicted to drugs get treatment over prison, among other issues.
Before his address, protesters gathered outside the state capitol to protest the speech. One of those who made the trip was Jim Keady, the man who got into a verbal shouting match in October with the governor which included Christie telling Keady to "sit down and shut up." He came to protest what he says is a lack of rebuilding after 2012's Hurricane Sandy, something Christie didn't mention his address.
"We are here to say to the governor that he needs to stay in New Jersey and finish the job," Keady said. "I believe we have a moral responsibility to let the country know that it's a lot of talk, there are brilliant dog and pony shows that he does, but the substance of his tenure, New Jersey is a mess."
Both national and state Democrats also criticized Christie, for what they said was a national not New Jersey focus.
Democratic assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chairman of the state legislative committee that investigated the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal, said Christie was "neglecting" New Jersey because of his national ambitions.
"He's almost become an absentee landlord, the governor has more concern what people in Iowa think about him than people in New Jersey and that's troubling because New Jersey has serious problems that need serious consideration and when you have a governor who is more concerned with the caucus voters in Iowa or the primary voters in New Hampshire you have a governor that is not living out his oath of office," Wisniewski said.
Even before Christie took the stage national Democrats also hit the Garden State governor releasing a video detailing the serious fiscal problems the state is facing, including credit downgrades, and teasing Christie for putting the state "firstish."