ABC News’ Karen Travers and Michael Falcone report:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie traveled to Washington today with a blunt message: “We are teetering on the edge of disaster.”
“I look at what’s happening in Washington, DC right now and I’m worried,” Christie said about what he called out of control spending and an unwillingness to take on entitlements. “Our country and our states are weighed down by an albatross of irresponsibility.”
Christie did not hold back in his dire warnings about where the country is heading (potentially down the “path to ruin”) and was not shy about touting his own legislative actions in New Jersey, even as he acknowledged that he has his critics howling.
“I did not run for this job for failure, I ran for this job for success,” he said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
The visit to Washington and the tough talk on budget cuts and spending has created considerable noise around a possible Christie run for president in 2012.
But today the governor ruled it out, saying the timing is not right.
“What do I have to do short of suicide to convince people I’m not running?” he asked. “You have to believe in your heart soul and mind that you’re ready. And I don’t believe that in myself right now.”
But he acknowledged that he was paying attention to the buzz surrounding him.
“I’m not stupid. I see the opportunity. I see it,” he said. “But that’s not a reason to run. I can’t imagine that changing.”
New Jersey is facing an $11 billion budget deficit and to fix it, Christie said he’s focusing on three key issues, which he called “big things:” restoring and maintaining “fiscal sanity;” bringing down the costs of pensions and health benefits, and reforming the state’s education system.
He said these are not Democratic or Republican issues, noting that his fellow governors are confronting the same issues as he is in New Jersey and using the same language to talk about solutions.
“These problems and issues are not partisan. They are obvious and they are long overdue to be solved,” he said.
In a jab at the White House, Christie said that President Obama is also focusing on what he calls “big things” – high speed rail, high speed internet and electric cars are the examples Christie picked out of the president’s State of the Union address.
“Ladies and gentlemen that is the candy of American politics those are not the big things,” he said.
Christie said he was expecting more from Obama’s annual address and feared the president would “cement” his re-election that night by announcing he would make the “tough calls on entitlements” and spending cuts.
“What I was looking for that night was for my president to stand up and challenge me,” Christie said. He said Obama still has time to right the ship and he hopes that he does. Unlike others, he “I’m not looking for the president to fail,” he said.
Christie put the pressure on House Republicans too, saying that when it comes to fiscal responsibility, “it’s put up or shut up time.”
The governor recalled the campaign appearances he made last fall on behalf of Republican candidates and issued a warning: “If people who I campaigned for don’t stand up and do the right thing, the next time they’ll see me in the district is with my arm around their primary opponent.”