TAMPA, Fla. - With the final speech of the opening night of the Republican National Convention, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie introduced himself, spelled out the differences between the two parties and explained why the country needs former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Once seen as a potential running mate for Romney, the talented orator illustrated for a national prime-time audience why Republicans view him as a rising star in the party.
Known for his blunt rhetoric, Christie made it through his entire speech without mentioning President Barack Obama by name even once. The convention's keynote address instead focused on the party's vision for the country.
"We need politicians to care more about doing something and less about being something," Christie said. "Believe me, believe me. If we can do this in a blue state with a conservative Republican governor, Washington, D.C., is out of excuses."
Christie's speech came at the end of a day packed tightly into a nine-hour program, including candidate speeches and the roll call vote officially nominating Romney for president.
Christie said Republicans believe in telling "the truth about our country's fiscal realities," in "telling seniors the truth about our overburdened entitlements" and in teachers. He said Democrats believe "the American people don't want to hear the truth about the extent of our fiscal difficulties," that "seniors will always put themselves ahead of their grandchildren" and in "teachers unions."
Delegates lined the walkways between the seats to hear Christie and gave several rounds of applause as his voice boomed throughout the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
His election in 2009 was one of the first signs of what became a national Republican wave in 2010, in which the party won the House majority and cut deeply into Democrats' Senate majority. He continued to compare his experience in taking over for a Democratic governor to what Romney is capable of doing if he succeeds Obama.
"We ended an era of absentee leadership without purpose or principle in New Jersey," Christie said. "It's time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House."
Christie used the word "leadership" nine times. It's a word Romney surrogates have been using quite often this week to help explain why a Romney administration would be different from the current one.
"People think his administration has been a failure, but they want to know now, 'what would you do different and why would that help?'" former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told Roll Call earlier Tuesday. "I think it's very important that you not only say what, but why and how it would help."
The Obama campaign distributed several "fact check" press releases during Christie's speech, questioning how upfront Romney has actually been with voters about his plans to fix the country's fiscal issues.
"Governor Chris Christie is talking a lot tonight about political courage," one release stated. "But Mitt Romney refuses to tell the American people how he'll pay for his $5 trillion in tax cuts weighted toward millionaires and billionaires."
Joshua Miller contributed to this report.