Christie Joins GOP Courtship of Evangelicals
WASHINGTON -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is joining the parade of ambitious Republicans courting religious conservatives as the early jockeying for the next presidential contest intensifies.
Christie was to deliver his first major address to an evangelical conference on Friday, the second day of the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual meeting, which brings hundreds of social conservative leaders to Washington. He’ll be joined on a packed agenda that also includes the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, and tea party firebrand Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Each is weighing a 2016 presidential run. The appearance comes at a critical time for Christie, who is broadening his political outreach as he works to recover from a political retribution scandal in his home state.
This group of potential presidential contenders largely represents a wing of the Republican Party eager to downplay the GOP’s positions on divisive social issues, although each of the three opposes gay marriage and abortion rights, including funding for Planned Parenthood, among other social conservative priorities.
The day before, GOP Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas insisted that America’s leaders must do more to defend Christian values at home and abroad, blaming President Barack Obama for attacks on religious freedom as they addressed the conference led by long-time Christian activist Ralph Reed.
"Those of us inspired by Judeo-Christian values ... have an obligation to our country and to our fellow man to use our positions of influence to highlight those values," Rubio said.