New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie promised a campaign of "big ideas and hard truths" when he formally entered the presidential race during a rally at his old high school on Tuesday.
"We need to have strength and decision-making and authority back in the Oval Office. And that is why today I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for president of the United States of America," Christie said during a rally at Livingston High School in New Jersey.
The often blunt Republican played up his penchant for straight talk during his announcement, promising to speak honestly "whether you like it or not."
"I mean what I say and I say what I mean and that's what America needs right now," Christie said.
Even before officially launching his campaign, Christie sought to portray himself as one of the few GOP voices willing to propose major overhauls to key entitlement programs, a move that risks alienating senior citizen voters. Christie has traveled extensively to the early voting states, especially New Hampshire, where he has delivered other major policy speeches and held his signature town hall discussions.
In his announcement Tuesday, Christie said he spent the past 13 years "fighting for fairness" as a U.S. attorney and governor, and now is ready to fight for the entire United States.
Christie becomes the 14th Republican presidential candidate to officially enter the race and will face a tough, uphill climb to the top of the crowded field. The Bridgegate scandal that has consumed much of his governorship over the past year-and-a-half has taken a major toll on Christie's standing among fellow Republicans.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last week found that 55 percent of Republican primary voters said they could not see themselves supporting Christie. His approval in his home state has also taken a significant hit since easily winning re-election in 2013.
"Part of it is, you know, we had the Bridgegate situation which turned out not to be anything about me, but the coverage was overwhelming," Christie told NBC's Kelly O'Donnell after his announcement.
"And the last thing is, you make hard decisions over a long time. If you look at the history of my poll numbers, I've gone up and down in this state. I earn political capital to spend it. Not to keep it in a drawer or put it on a frame on the wall," he added.