Waterbury — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigned in Connecticut Monday for U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon, extolling his fellow Republican as an independent-minded public servant who is up against a "professional politician."
One of the nation's highest-profile GOP governors, Christie was the main offering at a late-afternoon McMahon rally inside a former downtown storefront here. It was his second of three appearances of the day, and he arrived on stage in full attack mode.
"I love being the opening act for Chris Christie," McMahon joked.
The governor wasted no time in assailing McMahon's opponent, Democrat Chris Murphy. In a rousing and fast-moving 22-minute speech, Christie portrayed the three-term congressman as a hack politician whose sole ambition in life is higher office.
He called Murphy the "poster boy" for a certain breed of "preening" and "posturing" Washington politico who places political party leadership ahead of constituents.
The crowd, estimated at 400, cheered and applauded the governor in a bright pink tie.
"You don't want to wake up on Nov. 7 and find that you are stuck with another professional politician, another artist of vanity, a butler for Nancy Pelosi," he thundered.
Christie, who was the keynote speaker at the GOP's August national convention, said he knows two types of politicians: those who want to be something, and those who want to do something. Murphy is the former, he said, and McMahon the latter.
"Congressman Murphy is just about accumulating the next title," Christie said. "His whole life has been about running for elected office. From one to the next to the next … without any idea of what he wants to do when he gets there, except to own the title."
By comparison McMahon, a wrestling entertainment entrepreneur, "already has more titles than she knows what to do with," he said. "She's a CEO, she's a mother, she's a wife, she's a grandmother and she's a proud citizen of Connecticut."
Christie was only the latest national-profile politico to visit the state in support of a Senate candidate. Recent opinion polls show Murphy and McMahon in either a statistical dead heat or Murphy with a slight lead. The winner in two weeks will replace Sen. Joe Lieberman, who is retiring.
U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., stumped for Murphy on Saturday at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, came to Danbury and Norwalk early this month for McMahon.
Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to visit on Sunday on behalf of Murphy. The location of his visit has yet to be announced.
A Murphy campaign spokesman, Ben Marter, issued the following statement in response to Christie's remarks:
"Chris Christie's and Mitt Romney's tax cuts for millionaires and tax hikes for the middle class have failed time and again, but Linda McMahon wants to give them another try in Connecticut," he said. "Connecticut voters rejected Linda McMahon's jobs-killing policies two years ago, and while she campaigns with more Republicans focused on the wealthiest Americans, it's clearer than ever that she doesn't represent Connecticut working families."
Christie's themes bolstered the McMahon campaign's latest effort to reach more unaffiliated and Democratic voters. Her newest television ad shows three black voters and one white female voter explaining why they will support Democratic President Obama in November but also vote for McMahon on the Independent Party line.
"She's the only candidate who actually came into the inner-city, sat down with me, wanted to know my opinions and my views," says a black woman in the ad.
Christie stumped with McMahon during her unsuccessful 2010 Senate match-up against Democrat Richard Blumenthal. He told the audience Monday in Waterbury that he reached out to McMahon this year to see if he could lend a hand again.
"I believe in someone like Linda, who has built her life from the ground up, based upon family and principles that we all believe in," Christie said. "She will not be a handmaiden to the party bosses; she will be the loyal servant to the people of Connecticut."
Christie is well known outside of New Jersey for his blunt confrontations with teachers' unions. One of his biggest applause lines in Waterbury followed his recounting of how he and New Jersey's Democratic-majority legislature worked together to reform public school teacher tenure laws.
"We love our teachers, and we want them to succeed, we want the good ones to be paid more but we want the ineffective ones to be shown the door," Christie said.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who also recently achieved teacher tenure reform and who often jokes of a rivalry with New Jersey's governor, wasn't mentioned in Christie's speech.