(CBS News) TAMPA, Fla. -- In remarks that touched more on his personal governing philosophy than the candidate he was chosen to promote, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Tuesday called on Americans to face the nation's "hard truths" this November, and embrace a "new era of truth-telling" when deciding the country's political future.
Speaking to a riled-up crowd of Republican delegates on the first night of the GOP convention, the famously outspoken Christie stuck mostly to the script, but he still managed to deliver a harsh rebuke of a political system he argued rewards politicians' "desire to be loved" above a desire to do "right."
"We need politicians to care more about doing something and less about being something," said Christie. "Tonight, we choose respect over love."
With recent polls showing Romney facing an empathy gap compared to Mr. Obama, the Romney campaign used its biggest headliners Tuesday to work the issue from two angles: In remarks directly preceding Christie's speech, Ann Romney, Mitt Romney's wife,in an apparent effort to soften his image. Christie, meanwhile, suggested that voters should vote with their heads - not their hearts.
"Our leaders today have decided it is more important to be popular - to be popular! - to say and do what is easy, and say yes rather than to say no when no is what's required," he said. "I believe we have become paralyzed - paralyzed - by our desire to be loved."
Citing his experience as New Jersey governor, Christie argued that it's possible to speak hard truths and still earn the trust of voters. He called on voters to embrace a "new era of truth-telling."
"They rewarded politicians who led instead of politicians who pandered," he said, of his constituents' response to his own tough talk. "We shouldn't be surprised. We've never been a country to shy away from the truth. Our history shows that we stand up when it counts and it's this quality that has defined our character and our significance in the world."
"We have this leader for America," he said. "It's time to end this era of absentee leadership in the oval office and send real leaders to the White House. America needs Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and we need them right now."
He argued that finding the "right" solutions to the nation's woes would "not be painless."
But, he said, "our duty is to tell the American people the truth."
"Tonight, we choose the path that has always defined our nation's history," said Christie. "Tonight, we finally and firmly answer the call that so many generations have had the courage to answer before us. "Tonight, we stand up for Mitt Romney as the next President of the United States. And, together, we stand up once again for American greatness."