New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the 2012 Republican National Convention on August 28, 2012. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)
By RAJU CHEBIUM, Gannett Washington Bureau
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie urged South Carolina Republicans on Thursday to redouble their efforts on behalf of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the Palmetto State.
That would free Romney to focus on winning tossup states that are key to his bid to defeat President Barack Obama, Christie told South Carolina delegates at the Republican National Convention.
He said the GOP can't afford to take any state for granted, not even reliably red South Carolina.
"We need to make sure that we do our business so that here in South Carolina, Gov. Romney doesn't have to worry," said Christie, who gave the convention's keynote address on Tuesday.
Analysts say this year's swing states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia. The two presidential campaigns and their backers are spending heavily in those states.
Christie told the South Carolina delegation that the swing states "are going to determine this election and the course of our country."
Romney is virtually certain to win South Carolina, though the state chose former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the GOP primary. It was the only state that went for Gingrich, who later dropped out and endorsed Romney.
On Tuesday, 24 of the state's 25 delegates at the GOP national convention voted to nominate Romney. One delegate voted for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
In 2008, GOP presidential candidate John McCain won 53.9 percent of the vote in South Carolina, compared to 44.9 percent for Obama. Four years earlier, George W. Bush won 58 percent and Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts won 40.9 percent.
The Cook Political Report rates South Carolina solidly Republican. The latest polls have Romney up by 7 percent to 15 percent in the Palmetto State, according to RealClearPolitics, an online political analysis site.
Cook rates Christie's home state solidly Democratic. Obama carried New Jersey in 2008, winning 57.3 percent of the vote there compared to 41.7 percent for McCain.
Christie told the South Carolina delegates that Romney is a kind and caring man who will win if voters see that softer side of him.
Some delegates said they'd like to see Christie run for president and dismissed the notion that his image as a moderate Northeasterner is too liberal for the state's conservatives.
"We're not back in the 1800s anymore," said alternate delegate Janis Blocker, a retired teacher from Walterboro. "We're ready to accept good people from whatever part of the country."
Before Christie spoke, Gingrich paid a surprise visit to the delegation to thank the state for picking him in the primary.
Gingrich called Vice President Joseph Biden "racist" for recently telling supporters at a campaign rally -- including black supporters -- that Republicans want to put them "back in chains" by dismantling regulations aimed at curbing Wall Street excesses.