About 250 people attended U.S. Rep. Steve King&rsquo;s fifth annual Defenders of Freedom event in Sioux City Thursday. The luncheon featured Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a prominent figure in the national GOP who may be in the mix of White House candidates in 2016. <span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em>Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns</em></span>
About 250 people attended U.S. Rep. Steve King’s fifth annual Defenders of Freedom event in Sioux City Thursday. The luncheon featured Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a prominent figure in the national GOP who may be in the mix of White House candidates in 2016. Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Friday, September 21, 2012

SIOUX CITY — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a high-profile Republican with clear national ambitions, championed a small-government theme in a colorful speech to a partisan crowd in Sioux City early Thursday afternoon.

“We don’t belong to the government, the government belongs to us,” Christie said.

Christie, 49, a former U.S. attorney in New Jersey who has served as governor of that state since 2010, said more American politicians need to be able to say one simple word: “no.”

“We can all say ‘yes,’” Christie said. “The hard thing in politics is to say ‘no.’”

Christie keynoted U.S. Rep. Steve King’s fifth annual Defenders of Freedom event. The Republican Kiron congressman returned to Washington, D.C., for legislative work on Thursday and missed his own fundraiser as a result.

More than 250 people attended the event at Bev’s on The River in which Christie, a likely contender for the presidency in 2016 who considered entering the White House race this November, delivered a speech with three purposes: boosting the campaign of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, serving as a surrogate for King and testing the political waters for himself.

King, a five-term congressman now representing the 5th District, is in a spirited race with Ames Democrat Christie Vilsack, the former First Lady of Iowa, in the new 4th District which stretches from Missouri to Minnesota and includes 39 counties in western and central Iowa, much of it new territory for King.

Gov. Christie said constituents from the current district need to be outspoken in their advocacy for King as he is somewhat fresh to many voters.

“They may know him by reputation, but it’s different,” Christie said.

He added, “Steve King needs us to give that testimony now.”

Christie said four more years of President Barack Obama in the White House will add up to fiscal problems for the nation.

“It’s going to be bigger government,”  Christie said. “It’s going to be more spending.”

But while Christie supports Romney, he stopped short of making a unequivocal endorsement, suggesting his party had better candidates waiting in the wings, people who chose not to run in the 2012 cycle.

“I endorsed Mitt Romney a long time ago,” Christie said. “It’s not because I agree with every word that comes out of his mouth. I believe we need fundamental change in Washington, D.C. I believed then and I believe now that he is the best man who made himself available to defeat to the president of the United States.”

According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist Poll, Obama leads Romney in Iowa among likely voters 50 percent to 42 percent.

Christie said Republicans have to dispense with the pipe dream of an ideal candidate.

“You’re looking for the perfect candidate to vote for?” Christie said. “Look in the mirror. You’re the only person you agree with all the time.”

Mark Condon, 55, of Sioux City, the president of Condon Auto Sales there, said Christie clearly believes in traditional Iowa values, smaller government and “less intrusion in our lives.”

“Chris Christie reflects the way Steve King thinks,” Condon said.

What about Christie as a candidate for the presidency in 2016?

“That would be very interesting,” Condon said.

Larry Denherder, 60, the CEO of The Interstates Companies, an electrical engineering and contracting firm in Sioux Center, said Christie is “right on” with his advocacy of smaller government.

“Governor Christie’s really not afraid to say what he thinks,” Denherder said. “He’s got a message that really is blunt, but it rings true. He gets right to the point.”

Kenneth Streck, 76, a retired farmer and rural electric cooperative official from Ida Grove, said Christie made the right decision in holding off on a 2012 bid.

“I thought he wasn’t quite ready this time but he could be very good in 2016 or 2020 of whatever comes up,” Streck said.

Streck echoed one of Christie’s remarks in the Sioux City speech — that the press is biased toward Obama.

“I think the press has really been crucifying Romney a lot more than Obama,” Streck said. “Every time you listen, in the morning, noon and night, the press is after Romney. On his tapes, on this, on that, on this, where they don’t do that with Obama.”