WEST DES MOINES — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie likened Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to President Barack Obama in a speech to Iowa voters Sunday, arguing that the U.S. Senate doesn’t require actual leadership.

“Seven years ago, we made a huge mistake,” Christie said at Wellman’s Pub in West Des Moines. “We elected a first-term United States senator to the presidency of the United States. Somebody who had never managed anything more than a 30-person Senate staff, and who never had made a decision of consequence that they were going to be held accountable for where people’s lives were on the line.”

Obama wasn’t prepared to take the reins of the nation, Christie argued, and without naming names, suggested that Rubio and Cruz won’t be either.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks in Sioux City, Iowa on Sunday. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks in Sioux City, Iowa, Sunday. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

“We wonder why the government got so messed up [during Obama's term],” Christie said. “We shouldn’t wonder. And we shouldn’t make the same mistake again.”

First-term senators make good speeches because “they talk for a living,” said Christie, who’s been governor of New Jersey since 2009 and touted his experience balancing the state’s budget, cutting spending and dealing with Hurricane Sandy.

“We do things, we get things done, that’s the difference between a senator and a governor,” he said.

Christie went on to compare senators to grade schoolers:

Being in the United States Senate is kind of like being in grade school. Think about it: In grade school, they tell you when you have to show up for school. In the United States Senate, they tell you when you have to show up. In grade school, when you get there, they tell you what seat you need to sit in. In the United States Senate, when you get there, they tell you what seat you need to sit in.

In grade school, they give you the list of questions you have to study so you can answer them correctly. In the United States Senate, they give you the list of the issues we have to deal with every day so you know whether to vote yes or no. In grade school, they tell you when recess is. In the United States Senate, they tell you when recess is.

In grade school, they tell you when summer vacation starts so you can joyously run away from your responsibilities and go home to convince your parents that the year you just had was better than the one you actually had. In the United States Senate, they send them home for summer vacation to come see us, to tell us that they actually accomplished something when we know they haven’t done a damn thing the entire year. It’s just like grade school.

The presidency is a job that requires more experience than a short stint in the Senate, Christie argued.

“Being president is nothing like grade school, and neither is being governor,” he said.

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