New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (Photo by Scott Eells-Pool/Getty Images)
By Susan Page, USA TODAY
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address that launches the Republican National Convention in two weeks, telling USA TODAY he plans to make an "emphatic" argument on behalf of GOP approaches and shared sacrifice to face the nation's biggest challenges.
In an interview Monday, Christie said his 20-minute speech will focus more on making the case for electing Mitt Romney than the one against re-electing President Obama. And he promises the words will be his own: He's already on the fourth draft of the speech, "grinding away on it" over the past few days since Romney asked him to fill the high-profile role.
On another high-profile pick announced Saturday, Romney's choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate is getting a tepid initial reception from the public, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. In the weekend survey, 39% of registered voters called the pick "excellent" or "pretty good" while 45% said it was "only fair" or "poor."
Those are the lowest initial ratings for any vice presidential contender since 1988, when then-Indiana senator Dan Quayle faced controversies over his Vietnam-era draft status and his readiness to be president. Still, Ryan's pick galvanized the GOP: More than a third of Republicans said his presence on the ticket made them more likely to vote for Romney.
The poll of 488 registered voters, taken Sunday, has a margin of error of +/- 6 percentage points.
The choice of Christie as the keynoter, set to be announced today, puts the spotlight on a rising political star with a combative persona and sharp-edged sense of humor. His budget battles with the Democratic-controlled state Legislature and his blunt-spoken demeanor have made him a hero to conservatives and one of the party's biggest fundraisers.
"I'll try to tell some very direct and hard truths to people in the country about the trouble that we're in and the fact that fixing those problems is not going to be easy for any of them," Christie said. He'll cite his experiences in New Jersey as evidence that "the American people are ready to confront those problems head-on and endure some sacrifice."
Asked about his own ambitions - and Barack Obama's progression from Democratic keynoter in 2004 to presidential nominee in 2008 - Christie said he hoped to "come back at the next convention renominating President Romney and Vice President Ryan."
But the 49-year-old governor didn't dismiss the idea that he might have presidential aspirations down the road. "It's what I accomplish or don't accomplish as governor that will be the springboard or not for me," he said. "It's not what you say but what you accomplish."
He also had some advice for Romney and Ryan in their convention speeches, saying they should give Americans "a window" into themselves. "The only path (to victory) is if people conclude they can really trust them, and the only people who can make that case is the candidates themselves," he said.