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Christie: GOP, Not Media, Must 'Define Who We Are'

Image:  Chris Christie
Jew Jersey Governor Chris Christie leaves the podium after addressing the American Conservative Union Conference on March 6, 2014 at National Harbor, Maryland. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP - Getty Images

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that Republicans must have a proactive message that drowns out the media’s efforts to “define who we are.”

Christie, who did not mention the ongoing scandal about his administration’s meddling in traffic patterns, lambasted the media and said the conservative message isn't getting a fair shot.

“We have got to start letting the media define who we are and what we stand for,” he said at the annual CPAC conference.

Christie advised conservatives to bypass incorrect assumptions from the media by focusing on a proactive message.

“We've got to start talking about what we’re for and not what we’re against,” he said to applause.

In contrast to some of the speakers who preceded him – like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – Christie’s remarks featured fewer late night comedy-style jokes about President Barack Obama and the White House.

But he slammed Democrats as the “party of intolerance” and slammed the president’s push to reduce income inequality.

"We don’t need, Mr. President, your opinion on what income inequality is,” he said. “We don’t have an income inequality problem, we have an opportunity equality problem in this country."

Without naming them, Christie defended the Koch brothers – “two American entrepreneurs” –and said that top critic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should “get back to work and stop picking on great Americans who are creating jobs.”

And the Republican Governors Association head offered high praise for his fellow GOP governors, touting their achievements and drawing a sharp contrast between the states and government in D.C.

“Leadership is getting in and getting something done and making government work. Leadership is not about standing on the sidelines and spit balling. And that is what we see all across Washington, but that’s not what we see in the states," he said.

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He leveled only the mildest of critiques against Tea Party candidates who have sometimes been unable to muster enough support to win over moderates and make it to Washington.

“We don't get to govern if we don't win,” he said.

Christie spoke to a mostly-full, although not packed room - and received a short standing ovation after his remarks.

“I came here not expecting to be very impressed, and I was very impressed," said Diane Doll, a retired HR manager from Ohio. "I'm ready to go home and tell my grandchildren and my children and my friends: This is someone who I believe can get the job done.”

Devin Watkins, a law student at George Mason University, said that while he disagrees with Christie on guns and the environment, Christie is "always direct and forceful and really speaks his mind."

He said if Christie were the 2016 GOP nominee, “I think there's no doubt I would vote for him.”

NBC's Michael O'Brien contributed to this report.