West Des Moines, Iowa (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rallied conservative activists in
Fanning speculation that he's considering a 2012 presidential bid, the Republican spoke to about 700 people at a fundraiser for former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is challenging the Democratic incumbent for his old job back.
Christie said Republicans must deliver on their conservative promises if they gain power during the November elections. If they don't follow through, he said voters will send the GOP "to the wilderness, and they are going to send us there for a long, long time."
"As a party, it is put up or shut up time," he said.
Voters are willing to accept the political pain of deep cuts in government spending as long as they know the pain is being spread equally, Christie argued. It makes sense to shrink government in tough economic times, and politicians seem to be the last to get that message, he said.
"We lost our way a number of years ago, and we became tax and spend light," he said. "Less spending, smaller government, less regulation, smaller government -- we're going to be all about that again. We have to step up and stand for those principles again."
He described former President Ronald Reagan as the last truly successful Republican political leader, because he stuck to those basic core principles "and that's what we need to be about today."
After his speech, Christie insisted he wasn't planning to run for president in 2012 -- even though
"I'm governor of
Still, his appearance in
Since he defeated former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Christie has been traveling across the
On Monday, Christie argued that there's political success in carrying out conservative principles. Elected with less than 50 percent of the vote, he said his approval rating is nearing 60 percent.
"Something different is happening in
His stance underscores a divide in the Republican Party that could play out in the next presidential election, whether he's a contender or not.
Christie is among those who argue that Republicans can succeed when they focus on fiscal conservatism, often at the expense of focusing on key social issues, whereas former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee energize the party's religious and socially conservative base. Palin and Huckabee have been in
Branstad, who was
Branstad praised Christie, saying he was "a model for what a Republican leader and a Republican governor can do."