When a lighthearted Chris Christie faced the attendees at CPAC late Thursday morning, it felt almost as though Bridgegate was just a bad dream.

The New Jersey governor arrived on stage nearly an hour late. The crowd rose to greet him as Christie first stepped to the podium and it again rose to cheer him after his brief speech, which touched on topics ranging from public unions to his own pro-life beliefs. He did not, predictably, address the scandal which has threatened to bring his political career to a premature end.

Christie, his skin bronze, smiled broadly as he spoke, often drawing laughs, and frequently causing the crowd to erupt in applause.

He began his talk with the usual: boasting about his pension fight. “As you can imagine,” he smirked, “I was extraordinarily popular with the public employee unions.” But the deep red crowd permitted the governor to abandon his normal spiel in favor of talking party ideology, which he rarely gets the opportunity to do in blue Jersey.

"We’ve got to start talking about what we’re for, and not what we’re against,” he advised the audience, which cheered. Christie, who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, praised the work of GOP governors in Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, and Ohio to the practically hyperventilating crowd. “We have to stop letting the media define who we are and what we stand for.”

Christie took a powerful swing at Democrats when the talk turned to his opinion on abortion. “Tell me the last pro-life Democrat who was allowed to speak at a Democratic convention,” he said. “They’re the party of intolerance, not us.”

The governor then fired squarely at President Obama on income inequality. “We don’t need, Mr. President, your opinion on what income inequality is. We don’t have an income inequality problem. We have an opportunity problem.”

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