Christie rips GOP rivals for not backing Trump

Chad Livengood and Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ripped former Republican presidential opponents for not backing Donald Trump as the party’s nominee during a speech Monday to Michigan’s convention delegates.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie meets with members of the Michigan GOP delegation after his breakfast speech at the Republican National Convention Monday.

Without naming names, Christie made veiled remarks aimed at Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for still not endorsing Trump since dropping out of the race in May. Kasich is scheduled to speak Tuesday to Michigan delegates.

“If you’re a Republican and you have voted for Republican nominees for president and you’re not working for Donald Trump, you’re working for Hillary,” he said at an opening breakfast for Michigan Republicans attending the four-day Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Christie said all of the Republican presidential candidates signed a pledge to support the eventual nominee.

“It is unacceptable to me and it should be unacceptable to you that anyone who signed that pledge is not now adhering to that pledge,” he said.

Uniting behind Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton was the theme of Monday morning’s breakfast at the Michigan delegation’s hotel in Cuyahoga Falls, a city about 35 miles south of Cleveland.

“Our voters have spoken, and this convention needs to reflect the will of those voters,” Christie said.

Trump passed over Christie as his vice presidential running mate, picking Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. The Weekly Standard reported that the New Jersey governor was “livid” about being passed over based on a comment by Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Grand Rapids businessman Peter Secchia, a longtime Michigan GOP stalwart, criticized Michigan native Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for not getting behind Trump. Secchia warmed up the Michigan delegation before Christie spoke.

“He has deserted us, and I’m not happy with Mitt,” said Secchia, who supported Jeb Bush during the primaries.

Secchia noted he helped Romney raise millions of dollars in his past campaigns for president in 2008 and 2012.

“He turned on us and that’s not right,” Secchia said as Romney’s niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel, sat a few feet away in the audience.

McDaniel, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, said her uncle isn’t behind the latest effort to deny Trump the nomination at the convention this week. Insurgent delegates in the “Dump Trump” movement were circulating petitions Sunday and Monday seeking to force a state-by-state floor vote on Trump’s nomination.

“Ignore those petitions,” Secchia urged Michigan delegates.

In March, Mitt Romney came out forcefully against Trump before Michigan’s primary, calling the celebrity billionaire businessman “a phony” who is “playing the American public for suckers.”

“Mitt has nothing to do with those petitions and he hasn’t said anything in quite some time,” McDaniel said Monday after Christie’s speech. “He’s made his opinions known, and I think he’s been pretty quiet since then.”

Secchia, a former ambassador to Italy under President George H.W. Bush, said Jeb Bush misread “the tea leaves,” while Trump appealed better to Republican primary voters.

“And you know what? He was low-energy Jeb,” Secchia said, referencing Trump’s “super low energy” label for Bush during the primaries.

Christie said he expects to be campaigning for Trump in Michigan this fall “because that state is going to be in play” for Republicans.

No Republican presidential candidate has won Michigan’s electoral votes since 1988.

McDaniel said she believes more Republican leaders who have been withholding support for Trump will eventually back the nominee as the prospect of another Clinton presidency looms this fall.

“We want everyone engaged at every level in this election,” she said. “I understand there are some that are taking a little longer to come around to the nominee, but we’re going to keep working and talking to them and making the case about why we need to get behind the nominee.”

Kasich will speak Tuesday morning to the Michigan delegation.

Twitter: @ChadLivengood

Twitter: JonathanOosting