A bipartisan Christie praises Menendez, Obama

New Jersey Chris Christie shares a laugh with his constituents during his 100th Town Hall meeting in Manahawkin NJ. Gov. Christie holds his 100th town meeting, in Manahawkin at the Gymnasium at St. Mary of the Pines Parish Center 100 Bishop Way Manahawkin, Stafford Township, NJ. ( MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer )

WASHINGTON -- "Here I am, Washington, DC, my kind of town."

And with that sarcastic remark, Gov. Christie opened his Sandy-centered speech tonight to several hundred New Jersey politicos and business leaders at the annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce dinner. 

Last year, Christie delivered a highly partisan speech at this dinner, trashing legislative Democrats for pushing gay marriage. Democratic U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg weren't even invited, bucking tradition.

This year, though, in a speech draped in the emotion of a state recovering from Sandy, Christie offered extensive thanks and appreciation for his one-time nemesis, Lautenberg; for a senator in the midst of a major scandal, Menendez; and for a guy he campaigned against for most of 2012, President Obama.

"The president stood up for this region when it needed to be stood up for, he put aside partisan politics," Christie said. "I want to thank the president. He's been extraordinary."

As for the Democratic senators, here's Christie: "We had two people battling for us in the United States Senate who would not forget it was the right thing to do. I want to thank Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Menendez for their leadership."

Christie contrasted his bipartisan shpiel with the way "compromise" has "become a curse word" in the nation's capital. 

"What we've been doing in Washington all these weeks, months and years, it seems, is doing everything but making the deal," Christie said.

Not so in New Jersey, according to the governor, where Democratic leaders work with Christie.

"Folks call them Christiecrats, for gosh-sakes," Christie said. "You see the very use of that term discourages what you want to accomplish. People say they want us to be bipartisan and then criticize them for talking to the other party...a strong principled conservative governor can work with two strong principled progressive leaders of the legislature and find common ground."

He was referring to Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who haven't had much nice to say about Christie in recent weeks.

The event Christie spoke at is the so-called "Walk To Washington," sponsored by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. The annual event begins in the morning, as a chartered Amtrak train filled with lawmakers, lobbyists, special interest group reps, business people and reporters "walk to Washington."

Mostly, they "walk" the train -- and drink and shmooze.