Christie hammered away at discontent with Corzine, who had raised taxes.
He was the first Republican elected statewide in New Jersey in 12 years and came into office pledging "to pick Trenton up and turn it upside down."
Once in office, Christie introduced himself to the state anew by holding frequent town hall-style meetings where he showed himself adept at calling audibles and going off-script.
At one forum, a teacher complained that Christie was not being fair to public schools. As he denied that, he noticed the educator rolling her eyes. Then he went off: "I stood here and very respectfully listened to you," he told her. "If you want to put on a show and giggle every time I talk, I have no interest in answering your question."
The mostly Republican crowd cheered.
As he built a reputation for bluntness, he also showed he could get difficult things done, forging agreement with the Democrat-controlled Legislature on bills to make public workers pay more for pension and health care benefits and eliminate lifetime tenure protections for teachers.
The Grand Old Party, and the country, took notice.
"Big Boy," as Bush called him, created such buzz that some deep-pocketed donors were urging him to run for president in 2012.
The closest Christie would come — after repeatedly stating his disinterest in seeking his party's nomination — was making Mitt Romney's short list for VP. Christie would give the keynote address at his party's nominating convention, a speech that was televised in prime time, adding to his national exposure.
Though he said he wasn't ready to be president, Christie told Oprah Winfrey in 2012: "I'll be much more ready four years from now."
Adding to speculation that he would indeed jump into the 2016 presidential campaign, Christie had gastric banding surgery a year ago to help him lose weight, addressing what some believed to be his biggest liability in seeking national office.