CLIVE, Iowa (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie presented himself in sharp contrast to President Barack Obama in a fiery speech that sounded like the early makings of a presidential pitch.

Speaking from an Iowa stage to an audience that included some of the early voting state’s top power brokers, Christie painted the picture of a country hungry for leadership and a world adrift, with a feckless White House to blame.

“America used to control events both here at home and around the world. And now it seems that our fate is being dictated to us by others,” Christie said Saturday, bemoaning what he described as “an extraordinary vacuum of leadership in this country.”

“It is because of the lack of leadership that we have in the White House,” he told them. “It has been six long years, but I bring you good news: There are only two more years left.”

Christie, who is considering a run for the White House, was the featured speaker at fellow GOP Gov. Terry Branstad’s birthday bash in Clive, outside Des Moines. The event was one of the biggest on the state’s political calendar and gave Christie another opportunity to introduce himself to Republican activists, voters and fundraisers, who could propel a potential White House bid in 2016.

Christie praised Branstad, a longtime friend, and Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, whose race is one of the most closely watched in the upcoming midterm elections. But the bulk of his time was spent making the case that the country is in desperate need of change at the top.

Christie scolded Obama for failing to work more effectively across the aisle, not investing enough in expanding the North American energy market, and appointing what he described as activist judges that, he maintained, showed little respect for the Constitution. But the New Jersey Republican reserved his harshest criticism for Obama’s handling of foreign affairs, including dealings with Syria and Israel.

“America’s not being respected around the world the way we used to be,” he said. “And we’re not being respected because we no longer mean what we say and say what we mean.”

Christie began a long day in the Midwest by attending a tailgate fundraiser before the Rutgers-Nebraska football game in Lincoln, Nebraska. He also attended Rep. Steve King’s annual pheasant hunt lunch in Akron.

The trip marked Christie’s third in recent months to Iowa as he campaigns across the country in his role as chair of the Republican Governors Association.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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