When Chris Christie took the stage to claim his re-election victory Tuesday night, he had a rare opportunity for an early presidential candidate — a chance to command the attention of the nation’s political class pretty much alone.
If Christie runs for president, he’ll have plenty of time on stage with a half-dozen other candidates, competing at debates for the best zinger to dictate the next day’s story line.
But this was like a national convention speech: Christie, his words, the crowd, the cameras — and he took full advantage.
I’m not predicting Christie will win the nomination, and I don’t know whether he’d be a good president, but it was clear last night that, as a candidate, the man has the goods.
One of my favorite books on politics is Joe Klein’s “Politics Lost.” It’s a crisp 256 pages, and if you haven’t read it, I recommend it.
It’s essentially about how rare truly spontaneous moments are in our consultant-driven, message-managed politics, and how voters respond when they encounter that rare someone who is authentic.
That’s why Christie connects. Yes, he has his message, his points, but when he speaks, in some real way it’s him talking, and people can tell.
Last night, he talked about how the squabbling politicians in Washington can learn from New Jersey, how you can reach out to people you disagree with but hold on to your principles, and how you just have to show up and try. And when he stopped and responded to a guy who yelled at him, then cracked wise about Jersey folks at an open bar, it was spontaneous — and masterful.
Consider the embarrassments the guy has overcome — the helicopter ride to his son’s game; being on vacation during a blizzard; and all the pointless shouting matches he’s gotten into. The state disagrees with a lot of his policies, but they forgive his foibles and embrace him because he’s that rare thing — a politician who actually says what he thinks.
This will be interesting.