Chris Christie Defends Romney-Less RNC Speech: ‘Let Ann Talk About Mitt’

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is taking heat over his speech at the RNC Tuesday night in which he did not mention GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for a full 16 minutes. He’s criticized of downplaying Romney in favor of touting his own record, but Christie says that his job last night was to “lay out the stakes in this election.”

Party favorite Chris Christie was tapped to give the keynote address, a platform from which speakers historically make the case for the GOP nominee. So why did Chris Christie fail to mention Mitt Romney for a full 16 minutes? “I really felt that my job was to lay out the stakes in this election and the choice in this election,” Christie explained. “That’s what I was trying to do last night — was to lay out for our party: here’s who we are, here’s what we stand for.”

Chris Christie’s speech heavily referenced his own background and record as the Garden State’s governor, but he says that his delay in mentioning Romney wasn’t a dig or self-promotion. Having followed Ann Romney’s impassioned speech about her husband’s character, Christie felt that she’d nailed talking about Mitt in her own speech, and said that her speech, side-by-side with his, made for a successful presentation of the GOP candidate.

“It actually freed me up to put the choice into more general terms. It allowed me to be able to let Ann Romney talk about Mitt Romney the person,” Christie said. “And I thought she did an extraordinary job last night.”

Though Christie has denied reports that he turned down an offer from Mitt Romney to be his VP running mate, but he hasn’t ruled out a potential bid for the office down the line. Some have viewed his speech last night as a kind of fore-runner to his own presidential bid in 2016.