TAMPA, Fla. — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared to defend his speech from the criticism that it didn't mention Mitt Romney enough this morning at a breakfast for New Hampshire and Pennsylvania delegates to the Republican National Convention.
"My job last night as I saw it, and I spent a lot of time talking about the speech before I gave it because, nobody would show up," Christie joked to the room of about 150 attendees at the Double Tree hotel near the Tampa airport. "I really felt that my job last night was to lay out the stakes in this election and the choice in this election."
"And as it turned out, with Mrs. Romney going first it freed me up — remember she was supposed to be going Monday night and because of the hurricane it was canceled — so instead both of us were on the same night," he said.
Christie's convention speech focused on broader themes of Republican ideas and policy, and only mentioned Romney's name a few times. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow called it "an act of political selfishness."
"It actually freed me up to put the choice into more general terms. It allowed me to be able to let Ann Romney talk about Mitt Romney the person. And I thought she did an extraordinary job last night," he said.
"That's what I was trying to do last night," Christie said. "Was to lay out for our party: here's who we are, here's what we stand for."
But Christie compensated this morning by talking about Mitt Romney in personal terms for a large portion of his speech, telling the delegates a lengthy anecdote about the lunch he and his wife had with the Romneys that culminated in Christie agreeing to endorse Romney. He described Romney as having a natural gift for talking with children; "We've seen politicians interact with children, right? Lots of politicians are god-awful at it, right? Because they don't really care, they know they're supposed to and they're really awkward at it."
"Romney was completely comfortable with my children," Christie said. "And he made them feel completely comfortable; in fact, he made them feel like they were the center of the universe."
Later, Christie speculated about whether Romney could portray this side of him in his acceptance speech: "I hope that that Mitt Romney comes across on Thursday night, it's going to be a challenge, it's a challenge for anybody."
Christie said Romney couldn't win his home state, New Jersey — "let's be real" — but "you, the citizens of New Hampshire, the citizens of Pennsylvania — you can make a difference."
Christie spoke for a little over 20 minutes and left quickly without taking questions.