NJ Gov. Chris Christie announces presidential bid [photos]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today formally launched his run for the White House at the high school in Livingston where he spent three years as class president. 

After months of unofficial campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie launched his bid for the White House today at his alma mater, Livingston High School. Christie kicked off his campaign under the slogan “Telling it like it is” and promised that Americans would hear exactly what he thinks, not what his handlers tell him to say.

“I believe in my heart that I am ready to work with you to restore America to its rightful place in the world,” Christie said. He finished the campaign kick off event confidently proclaiming “we are going to win this election.”

To a packed crowd, pacing the stage with a handheld microphone Christie emphasized his family, from his deceased mother Sondra, to his father Wilbur watching, to his brother Todd and sister Dawn. Then he turned to his wife Mary Pat, whom he called a great politician in the family.

Hundreds of protesters, including lots of teachers and state employees surrounded the event, calling on Christie to resign as governor while he runs for president. The governor did not address that issue but previously has said there is no need for him to step down. In fact, he has been traveling out of state much of 2015 already and later today heads to New Hampshire for his first official campaign events.

After promising to simplify the tax code, encourage businesses to invest here, not overseas, Christie called for a stronger America as the “only indispensable force for good in the world.”

Some Republicans criticized Christie in October 2012 for embracing President Obama in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. He used the kick off speech to distance himself from the president, while taking a shot at a leading Democratic candidate as well.

“President Obama lives in his own world, not our world and after seven years of a weak and feckless foreign policy we can’t turn over the White House to his second mate Hillary Clinton!” he said.

He criticized the president and Congress who treat “compromise as a dirty word.”

“If Washington and Jefferson thought compromise was a dirty word, we would still be under the crown of England,” he said.

Christie touted his achievements as governor, such as balancing state budgets (as required by the New Jersey Constitution) without raising taxes, reforming tenure and overhauling the public worker pension system. He did not mention that the 2011 bipartisan overhaul he enacted he now considers to be not enough. He’s pushing for more changes and givebacks from state workers.

Christie joins a crowded GOP field as he becomes the 14th Republican to enter the 2016 race.

The crowd was warmed up by two people who knew Christie growing up. Lynn Grone, a former high school and college classmate of Christie said back then she knew he would be a “powerful voice for the public good.” She called Mary Pat Christie the “secret weapon” back then and now.

Sheila Antman Goldklang, Livingston math teacher for more than 45 years and former board of education president also spoke. As a Democrat, she said she doesn’t always agree with him but praised him for “looking people in the eye.”

Christie who won re-election as governor in 2013 by a landslide has dropped to all-time lows in New Jersey according to a Fairleigh Dickinson Public Mind poll released last week. He’s also struggling in the all important state of New Hampshire where he ranks 6th in the polls. Though it’s likely he’ll get a bounce now that he officially says he’s in the race.

Christie posted online his first campaign video, which talks mostly about his parents. It features video from some of his town hall style events, including saying what he thinks his mother would say to him today (she died in 2004). “You better tell them exactly what you’re thinking and exactly what you’re feeling,” he imagines in the ad.

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