New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called on his fellow Republicans to be more inclusive in their rhetoric and make more of an effort to reach out to minorities.
Speaking before a group of Latino business owners who held a summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., Wednesday afternoon, the likely Republican candidate for president said, "My party, quite frankly, has been guilty in some respects of speaking in a way that doesn't sound very welcoming to new members.”
"If you want to be a leader in this country,” he added, “you have to first reach your hand out and change the tone of our national conversation."
Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, won just 27 percent of the Latino vote in his contest against President Barack Obama — a disconnect that intensified interest among some Republicans in expanding the party's appeal to a broader spectrum of people, especially the growing Hispanic vote.
He lamented the idea that Republicans are a party that minorities can never support.
“That's not true. We have demonstrated that in New Jersey,” said Christie, who won slightly more than half of the Garden State’s Latino vote.
In his 2013 re-election campaign, Christie defeated Democrat Barbara Buono, who picked as her lieutenant governor running mate a Latina labor union leader, Milly Silva.
Christie credited his meetings with communities across New Jersey for his gains with Latinos and others in his re-election campaign. He also was riding high in opinion polls in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and faced an opponent who gained little traction.
He said his experience "tells you that if we change the way that we hear each other, if you treat each other with respect, even when we disagree, we can bring people together."
Though Christie has been traveling around the country, hinting that he is considering running for president, recent polls show it would not be smooth sailing to the White House.
Real Clear Politics noted that Christie ranked eighth among announced and potential GOP presidential candidates, getting a meager 4.8 percent support from likely Republican voters in an average of national polls.
In another visit to the early primary state of New Hampshire on Tuesday, Christie said his family supports his running for president. He plans to go to Iowa, another early battleground state, on Thursday.
Christie says he will decide this month whether to run for the Republican nomination.
According to USA Today, some at the meeting on Wednesday came away impressed with the New Jersey governor.
"He's certainly saying the right things," said Rudolph Estrada, lead director of the Board of Directors of East West Bank, according to USA Today. "I am a Democrat. There is nothing in his speech I could disagree with."
"He hit a lot of good points," said Rosie Arias, a small business owner from California. "The Latino community is definitely looking for someone to stand up on … their behalf. I believe he could be one."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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