Christie Draws Surprising Ovation After CPAC Speech

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie thrived during a speech at CPAC Thursday, a crucial "litmus test" for all GOP hopefuls.

Christie Draws Surprising Ovation After CPAC Speech

He was declared dead in the water by many pundits, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may be on the up-and-up with conservatives.

"We have to stop letting the media define who we are, and what we stand for. Because when we talk about what we're for, no matter what state we're in, our ideas win." (Via C-SPAN)

Christie spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, and rather than struggle with a group that's deemed him "not conservative enough" in the past, Christie got a standing ovation. (Via WCBS)

A good showing at the three-day event is considered a critical step on the road to the presidential nomination. CNN calls CPAC "a must-attend cattle call for GOP presidential hopefuls looking to pass the conference's conservative litmus test."

Many thought the governor would be persona non grata at the event, coming off a firestorm of bad publicity from "Bridgegate," allegations his office caused a major traffic jam to punish a Democratic mayor.

That, and he wasn't even invited to the event last year after meeting with President Obama following Hurricane Sandy. (Via NBC

Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told The Star-Ledger conservatives have "an alphabet soup of reasons not to like him. And that was without Bridgegate."

But Fox News' Dana Perino thinks all the bad press might actually be endearing Christie to the CPAC crowd.

"Well, I actually think a little bit is pent-up frustration about media treatment of Chris Christie and that people think that it was unfair."

Then again, National Review's Eliana Johnson says the crowd didn't seem to start off excited about Christie's remarks, reporting, "The governor was greeted with murmurs and some quiet cheers; he drew more excitement from the audience as he proceeded."

But even with the warm reception, could it already be too late for Christie's White House chances?

A Fox News poll released Wednesday showed 52 percent of Americans think Christie would not make a good president. That's a 15 percent increase from a similar poll one year ago.

CPAC holds a 2016 presidential nominee straw poll Saturday — so if Christie's speech resonated, that would be the first real test with the base.