The bully and the ‘pander bear’

On Friday, Gov. Christie headlined a Mitt Romney event in Illinois in hopes of bolstering the flailing frontrunner’s chances in the state’s GOP Primary on Tuesday.

This is part of a series from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

On Friday, Gov. Christie headlined a Mitt Romney event in Illinois in hopes of bolstering the flailing frontrunner’s chances in the state’s GOP Primary on Tuesday.

One problem: With Christie in town, it reveals to conservative voters what they’re missing by supporting a wishy-washy, waffle-prone stiff like the former Massachusetts governor. 

Just last week, Christie had no qualms calling a combat veteran an “idiot” during a speech about the merger of Rutgers-Camden Law School into Rowan University.

His abrasive style, peppered with outbursts that are quickly captured and posted to YouTube by his staff, is legendary and laughable. Assembly Democratic Leader Lou Greenwald compares Christie’s abrasiveness to “schoolyard taunts,” and he’s not too far off.

When I describe Christie’s political style to someone outside of New Jersey, I always refer to it as “bully chic.” Just like the guy at the bar who spent an hour making his hair look unkempt, Christie’s image as a tough guy is carefully cultivated, marketed and sold.

The problem is Republican voters love Christie’s fiery rhetoric and willingness to confront just about anyone, which is about a million miles away from every fiber in Romney’s carefully-chosen Ralph Lauren rhetorical style.

Just look at his missteps campaigning in the south last week. From eating “cheesy grits” to trotting out Jeff Foxworthy to campaign, Romney is willing to do just about anything to prove to conservative voters that he’s “severe” enough to be their candidate.

“I had catfish for the second time,” Romney said stumping in Alabama. “It was delicious, just like the first time.” While campaigning in Michigan, he famously said, “the trees are the right height.” In Puerto Rico, he told listeners of a local radio station that he’s not in favor of making English the official language of the country, even though he just finished telling voters in Louisiana and Alabama just that. 

It’s as if his only campaign prep work is reading through state travel brochures picked up at the local visitor’s center.

What’s he going to say to relate to voters in Illinois? “The land here is just the right level of flatness.” “I don’t eat deep dish pizza, but I know the owner of Pizzeria Uno.” “I love your two baseball squads.”

Rush Limbaugh may have called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” but Mitt Romney’s the one who’s eager to please. Now he just has to learn to start calling teachers “thugs” and he’ll lock up the primary in the Garden State. Fist-bump.

Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.