Tampa (CNN) -- Chris Christie brought his trademark passion to the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, delivering a robust endorsement of Mitt Romney for president and advocating a tough-minded approach for dealing with the nation's economic and political problems.
The New Jersey governor is well known for plain talk and while some edges were softened at times, he mostly stuck to his familiar style in the coveted keynote address aimed at firing up the party faithful and appealing to a prime-time television audience.
"We are demanding that our leaders stop tearing each other down, and work together to take action on the big things facing America," Christie said, adding that the nation's leaders have been crippled by the desire to be loved.
"Tonight, we choose respect over love," he said.
Christie invoked more rhetorical flair than in another important speech he gave before the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, when he articulated well-worn Republican complaints about restrictive federal regulations under President Barack Obama.
Christie this time told the story of Chris Christie that leaned heavily on an account of his family legacy -- the son of an Irish father and a Sicilian mother. It is genuinely an American story of modest roots, hard work, simple values and success.
Those topics capped a night of speeches on the Tampa convention's first night that leveraged "up-by-the-bootstraps" themes aimed at inspiring voters and drawing America to principles conservatives view as crucial to solving the nation's economic and other problems.
"We are the great grandchildren of men and women who broke their backs in the name of American ingenuity; the grandchildren of the Greatest Generation; the sons and daughters of immigrants; the brothers and sisters of everyday heroes; the neighbors of entrepreneurs and firefighters, teachers and farmers, veterans and factory workers and everyone in between who shows up not just on the big days or the good days, but on the bad days and on the hard days," Christie said.
Christie argued that the American people can handle the truth and should focus on ideas rather than rhetoric. He also outlined differences between Republicans and Democrats on governing philosophy while highlighting his bipartisan achievements, such as balancing the state's budget and reforming the pension and health benefit system.
"I know this simple truth and I'm not afraid to say it: our ideas are right for America and their ideas have failed America," Christie said of Democrats. He added later: "Their plan: whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power."
True to his role as one of the most vocal campaign surrogates for Romney, Christie also made the case why he feels the country "needs" Romney in the Oval Office.
"Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth and create good paying private sector jobs again in America. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the debacle of putting the world's greatest health care system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor," Christie said to applause.
"We ended an era of absentee leadership without purpose or principle in New Jersey," he added. "It's time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders back to the White House. America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and we need them right now."
Christie endorsed Romney last October and was considered a potential running mate. On the trail, Christie offered a healthy serving of acid wit and attitude.
In June, Christie asked a reporter "Are you stupid" after being asked an off-topic question at a press conference, and he was caught on video yelling at a heckler in July.
Fifty percent of voters surveyed last month in a Quinnipiac University poll described Christie as a leader, compared to 45% who said he was a bully.
Romney asked Christie to be the keynote speaker at the convention and chose Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin as a running mate. At the time, Christie he was not disappointed by the decision.
"I told everyone all along I didn't want to be V.P," Christie said.
Christie's debut on a national stage may have positioned him for a bigger spotlight, but ultimately will not be memorable, said CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.
"Chris Christie helped to reinforce the votes Romney already has," Gergen said.
Rose Arce, Dana Bash, Kevin Liptak, Gregory Wallace