Tampa, Fla. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has an offer North Carolina Republicans can't refuse: Elect Mitt Romney in November, or face another four years of high unemployment.
"I know where to find you, and you do not want an angry Chris Christie coming back to North Carolina on Nov. 7," he told delegates during a breakfast meeting Monday. "(We'll) give you New Jersey-style treatment. You're not going to want that. I guarantee you."
Christie said the upcoming presidential election could hinge on North Carolina, which voted narrowly in 2008 for President Barack Obama. New Jersey made the same mistake, he said.
That's why Christie, a rising star in the GOP, said he's keeping a close eye on North Carolina and will even help campaign for gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory, who hopes to become the state's first Republican governor in 20 years.
"The presidency could be up to you," he said. "That's an incredible burden on the people of North Carolina, but it's also an extraordinary opportunity."
He called North Carolina a "state of consequence," a term likely to be echoed by state party leadership over the next 70 days.
Delegates embraced Christie's message.
"He's absolutely right on," said Earl Phillip, of Charlotte. "He's very motivating, very invigorating, and he's real. That's why he got elected – because he's real."
He added that Christie's mock mafioso style will help inspire passion in North Carolina.
"He's very convincing, like those guys out of 'Goodfellas,'" Phillip said. "He wants us to be passionate in turning this state into a Republican state by electing McCrory and Romney. The urgency is there, and we've got to work to get the job done."
Bill Lick, of Asheville, said he was pleased to see North Carolina draw the attention of Republican leaders on the national stage.
"(Christie) is a name that is recognized all over the country. Some like him, some don't like him, but everybody knows about him," Lick said.
Christie will deliver the convention's keynote address on Tuesday night.
North Carolina's delegate breakfasts will feature several stars of the Republican party, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former presidential hopeful Herman Cain, as the lead-up to Romney's official nomination continues through the week.