New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came to Washington for 2 purposes this week: to take on the role of policy vice president of the Republican Governors Association and to deliver an address at the American Enterprise Institute- a Republican think tank.
This address may have done for Christie what Barack Obama's address at the 2004 Democratic national convention did for Obama's career. Anybody watching highlights of the speech could only concur with what Professor Larry Sabato said about Christie in Politico" He has an electricity around him wholly absent around other candidates,”
Time magazine called his whirlwind visit to Washington "Mr. Christie comes to Washington", a play on the iconic Jimmy Stewart movie "Mister Smith comes Washington." Here was the legend of American politics: an anti-politician comes to the capital with plain talk and and shows the Beltway how to do things right.
If it was only natural that Christie resonated with conservatives, when the liberal Washington Post and LA Times joined the rave reviews, it became a phenomenon.
Christie showed how to make his message nonpartisan. He savaged the Obama budget, but with a sense of regret. He, Christie, did not want the president to fail. Had Obama leveled with the American people on the financial crisis, he would have insured his reelection. Instead, argued Christie, Obama offered them candy in the form of electric cars and high-speed Internet.
He pointed to Democratic governors such as neighboring New York's Andrew Cuomo and Jerry Brown in California, who had come to the same conclusions. There would be no electric cars and the Internet would be prohibitively priced if Washington failed to act on "3 big things" that Christie claims he has started in New Jersey:“It’s restoring and maintaining fiscal sanity. It’s getting our pension and health benefits under control, reformed and having the costs lowered, and it’s reforming an educational system that costs too much and produces too little.”
On the latter issue, Christie and his education Commissioner Chris Cerf, announced that they would tackle the LIFO - last in first out - policy embodied in New Jersey state law under which budget-related layoffs are based on seniority rather than merit. The situation today is the same as in Israel where a mediocre teacher with 10 years of seniority is untouchable, less in Israel, while superior younger teachers are most vulnerable.
The New Jersey Governor attacked both President Obama as well as the Republicans for dancing around the painful issues.
"What is the truth nobody is talking about?..[ We] "need to raise the social security retirement age …Ooh, I said it. And I am standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpet."
Christie claims that such timidity is not only morally wrong but politically foolish. He pointed to his own improved ratings despite some of the painful cuts that he has made in New Jersey. Voters have responded to him because he treated them like adults.
Christie was insistent on scotching rumors that he was a presidential candidate claiming that the only way to completely quell these rumors was by committing suicide. It is however a fact that Christie is already the preferred candidate of columnists Anne Coulter and Jennifer Rubin.
The heavy set Christie (and he knows by self-deprecation how to turn his girth into an advantage) is a physical opposite of Obama. What Obama did prove in the 2008 primaries is that a candidate who can excite people can top more experienced candidates who failed to evoke similar passions. At this stage already Christie appears a formidable candidate who could have the vice presidential nomination for the asking.