In Iowa, where Romney and Bachmann’s numbers divide GOP, Christie calls for educational unity

Landing in the Iowa cornfields as that state revs toward a Republican Presidential Primary early next year, Gov. Chris Christie invoked unity, and took credit for advancing education reforms in a speech at the Iowa Education Summit hosted by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.

“We spend a lot of time focused on the issues that divide us about the educational future of our country,” said Christie, who repeatedly says he will not pursue the presidency in 2012. “We need to spend more time on the things that unite us.”

Last year, Christie cut $820 million in education funding because “I had an $11 billion budget deficit and nearly one third of money is spent on K-12 education.” He restored $850 million in education funding this year, a less reported fact, he noted; without explaining that it was a court order that compelled the payback.

“I don’t oppose funding public schools, I dealt with a difficult economic fiscal circumstance and got great opposition in certain quarters because we demomize each other,” said Christie, invoking Bruce Springsteen’s “Greetings from Asbury Park” at one point in describing Asbury Park’s challenges.

A Public Policy Poll last week showed Springsteen beating Christie in a hypothetical gubernatorial matchup.

“Everyone in New Jersey and I suspect everyone in Iowa wants to invest in our childrens’ future,” said the governor, who’s not running for president in 2012 as the Iowa Republican this month reported a poll that shows Tea Party darling U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) leading establishment Republican former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, 25 to 21 percent in the GOP Presidential Primary.

No one mentioned prez politics publicly as Christie appeared onstage.

“Gov. Christie has worked with both parties to put New Jersey back on track,” said Branstad, who in his introduction described the Garden State chief executive  as “one of the most vocal governors about education reform.”

Christie likewise built up Branstad.

“I came to Iowa today at the invitation of a governor who has a reputation throughout his career of bringing people together,” Christie said.

Disputing the argument that teacher tenure reform would obliterate morale, the governor made the counter argument.

“Tenure should be earned, year after year after year, based on performance,” Christie said. “…Once we get to where tenure is earned, why shouldn’t we pay those who are most excellent more than those who are not?

“You’d think this could unite us,” the governor said.

Apparently New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chairman John Wisniewski disagreed, calling Christie’s trip to the country’s cornfed flatlands little more than an effort to raise his own national profile and campaign with conservative Congressman Steve King.

“Chris Christie has become New Jersey’s Sarah Palin, continuously traveling around the country to tell people that he’s not interested in running for President,” said Wisniewski. “Instead of staying to help New Jersey seniors and families struggling under budget cuts and rising unemployment, Christie decided to once again raise his own national profile by campaigning out of state in Iowa.”

Politico today described the governor’s campaign stop for King as an effort to “return the favor” for King’s help during a “rough 2009 congressional hearing.”

“Today, Christie is trying to re-elect a Congressman who believes it is ‘common sense’ to engage in racial profiling and said that electing Barack Obama would have the terrorists ‘dance in the streets,’” Wisniewski said. “This is just the latest example of how Chris Christie is out of touch with the values and struggles of New Jersey families. As our state sees unemployment continue to rise, Chris Christie runs away from our struggling workers to try and find himself a new job.”

In Iowa, where Romney and Bachmann’s numbers divide GOP, Christie calls for educational unity