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Michael Mangum | Special to the Tribune New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers the keynote address at the 2012 Governor's Gala fundraiser for Gov. Gary Herbert at the Grand America hotel in Salt Lake on Saturday, September 22, 2012.
Christie slams Obama for 'feeble' leadership

Politics » Democratic candidate’s $15 per head dinner stark contrast to Gov. Gary Herbert’s glitzy gala

First Published Sep 22 2012 10:48 pm • Last Updated Jan 07 2013 11:31 pm

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Saturday compared President Barack Obama to a man flailing in a dark room, unable to find the "light switch of leadership."

"He doesn’t know how to lead. He can’t bring people together. He can’t develop relationships that are trusting. He can’t bang heads together when necessary," Christie said. "He has failed the litmus test for the presidency, which is to lead our country in a way that brings people together."

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Christie, speaking at Gov. Gary Herbert’s annual black-tie gala fundraiser in downtown Salt Lake City, mixed sarcastic humor with a withering critique of Obama, blasting the president’s "stupidity," and for being "lame" and "feeble" in office.

His harshest criticism was targeted at a recent comment by Obama, that "You can’t change Washington from the inside" — a statement Christie said is "fundamentally stupid."

"If you can’t change Washington from the inside, then get on a plane and go back to Chicago where you belong and let’s get someone who can," said Christie, who went on to say that it revealed a president who is unwilling to take responsibility for his failures in office.

"When you get past the stupidity and get to the motive, the motive is a desperate man who knows he has failed, who knows he’s failed and he’s desperate to hold onto power," Christie said.

Utah Democratic Chairman Jim Dabakis said Christie’s insults were unfortunate.

"It’s sad that a respected governor would come here and degrade the president of the United States and it’s unfortunate Governor Herbert brought him here and gave him a platform. That kind of uncivil dialogue doesn’t help anybody," Dabakis said.

"It’s sad that this is where we are because really if Republicans and Democrats rolled up their sleeves, as I think the president did in the initial part of his presidency, I think we could solve these problems. But the Republicans decided early on that this would play better in 2012 if they could label this presidency as failed and so they failed to cooperate in any way."

A few blocks away from Herbert’s fundraiser at the Grand America Hotel, kids were dancing to The Joe Muscolino Band at the headquarters of Herbert’s challenger, Democrat Peter Cooke, who hosted about 400 supporters at a much less formal get-together, where they paid $15 for a bowl of chili. Half of the money raised was donated to The Road Home homeless shelter.

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"These are Republicans, Democrats, the people of the state and the thing is, we’ve got to get out of this way of donating money for an opportunity to talk to the governor," Cooke said. "We’ve got to get this straight and have the right priorities."

Tickets for Herbert’s event started at $500 per person and ran to $25,000 to be a "presenting sponsor" of the event and attend a VIP reception with Herbert, Christie and several guests before the dinner.

Nineteen corporations and individuals each ponied up the $25,000. Twenty-two others donated $10,000 to be "supporting sponsors."

Herbert has already raised more than $1 million for his campaign and had $740,000 in the bank to start the race, compared with $266,000 raised by Cooke.

Damon Cann, a political science professor at Utah State University said there is plenty of reason for Herbert to raise lots of money, even if he can easily outspend Cooke.

One is as an insurance policy, in case the race ends up being "tighter than most people expect." It can deter challengers if he decides to run for office down the road. And many candidates use extra funds to help other same-party candidates win.

"I’ve never heard a candidate come to the end of an election and say, ‘I wish I hadn’t raised so much money,’" Cann said.

Christie, who was considered a presidential contender before opting not to run, delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention last month where he also called Obama "irrelevant" and said he had abdicated his leadership duty.

On Saturday, he again urged Utahns to get involved by recruiting friends in battleground states to the Romney cause, saying each of them could be "a citizen of consequence, even if you don’t live in a state of consequence in the next election."

Christie praised what Herbert has done as governor and said the Utah governor is such a good friend that Christie — a huge Bruce Springsteen fan — missed Springsteen’s final concert of his tour to attend the Salt Lake fundraiser.

Herbert has raised about $1 million in each of the galas he has held since he became governor in 2009 when Gov. Jon Huntsman left the office to become the U.S. Ambassador to China.

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