TRENTON -- Gov. Christie scrapped his prepared remarks for his morning address at the Governor's Conference on Women to eulogize, in somber tones and without notes, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who had been his political nemesis.
Christie told the crowd about the death of Lautenberg, 89, just one hour after the news broke, eliciting gasps from many women in the crowd who were apparently unaware.
Christie then went into a brief biography of Lautenberg's life before addressing the death in more personal terms. He didn't give a hint about whom he will choose to fill Lautenberg's seat, as is his constitutional duty, and he wouldn't talk to me on his way onto the stage.
"It's no mystery that Sen Lautenberg and I didn't always agree," Christie told the crowd at the Trenton War Memorial. "In fact, it's probably more honest to say that we very often didn't agree."
Christie and Lautenberg had some of the more partisan and fierce verbal back-and-forths through the years, with Lautenberg's age and Christie's weight backdrops of the battle. Lautenberg once described the "evils" of Christie. After Christie wondered why Lautenberg was so angry, considering he was still in good health at an advanced age, Lautenberg challenged Christie to a "foot race."
But relations seemed to warm during Sandy, when Lautenberg met with Christie and President Obama immediately after the storm.
"We had some good fights over our time -- battles on philosophy and the role of government," Christie said. "But never was Sen. Lautenberg to be underestimated as an advocate for the causes he believed in and as an adversary in the political world. I think the best way to describe Frank Lautenberg and the way he would probably want to be described to all of you today is as a fighter. Sen. Lautenberg fought for the things he believed in and sometimes he just fought because he liked to."
Christie then asked for prayers for the family, and concluded with this: "In the end all of you who decided to get involved in public service should aspire to have the same things said about you and whatever role you play: That you're honest, that you're a fighter for the things you believe in, and that you gave as good as you got. All of those things can be said about Frank Lautenberg."
He continued: I give him praise for a life well-lived. I think we'd all sign up, today, for a life like Frank Lautenberg had of 89 years of fighting, and fighting hard. He's been a great example for the people of our state, and we'll certainly miss him."
Christie got a standing ovation.He has a Republican primary for re-election tomorrow, but cancelled all campaign events today.