Christie's mother is an addict — and her addiction gave her cancer. An old friend from law school was an addict — and it cost him his life.

But no one thinks Christie's mother deserves her cancer, he told a crowd gathered at Shooter's Tavern in Belmont, N.H. No one condemns smokers for their disease, he said. And in an emotional plea captured on video and first posted by the Huffington Post Oct. 30, he questioned why that's different for people addicted to other drugs.

Christie said his mother smoked her whole life — addicted to the nicotine. She knew it was bad for her, and she tried to quit — but failed, time and time again. She was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 71.

“But no one came to me and said, ‘Hey listen, you know, your mother was dumb, she started smoking when she was 16. Then after we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it, so we’re not going to give her chemotherapy, we’re not gonna give her radiation, we’re not going to give her any of that stuff — you know why? 'Cause she’s getting what she deserves.’ No one said that,” Christie said. "No one said that about someone who had cancer."

He continued: "Yet somehow, if it's heroin or cocaine or alcohol, we say, 'Ah, they decided. They're getting what they deserved.'"

It's an emotional plea for drug policy reform that's earning praise from several corners. Even unabashedly liberal commentator and frequent Christie critic Rachel Maddow took note.

"You can tell, this is sort of the least partisan thing imaginable, and whether you like Chris Christie as a candidate or not — whether you like him as a politician or not — his kind of skill at communicating the way you saw him communicating on an issue like this, that’s why he still seems like he could be a contender, despite all the numbers and everything on paper say otherwise," she said Tuesday night.

The message, she said, was "pretty compelling" — and might be the sort of moment that could help Christie kick-start a lagging campaign.

Christie told the small crowd — the type he prefers on the campaign trail, where he's been focusing on town hall-style meetings — he's pro-life "and I think if you're pro-life, you've got to be pro-life for the whole life, not just the nine months they're in the womb."

"It's easy to be pro-life in the womb. They haven't done anything to dissapoint us yet," he said. "They're perfect in there. But when they get out, that's when it gets tough. The 16-year-old teenage girl on the floor of the county lockup, addicted to heroin — I'm pro-life for her too. Her life is just as much a precious gift from god as the one in the womb."

And Christie, a self-described "recovering lawyer," spoke about friend from law school who, he said, by any typical measure was a success — good-looking, smart, financially successful and admired in his career.

But he was given Percocet after an injury, starting a him on a downward spiral, the governor said.

"They found him dead in a motel room with an empty bottle of Percocet and an empty bottle of vodka. Fifty-one years old," he said.

"We need to stop judging and start giving them the tools they need to get better," the governor said.