After covering New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for four years, WNYC reporter Matt Katz feels like he knows the Governor as well as anybody outside his inner circle.
But that doesn’t mean reporting on the firebrand Republican has lost its flare.
“I’m fascinated by how he’s selling himself and I’m fascinated by how that sales pitch jives with the truth,” said Katz, “and when he runs for President, how he adjusts the reality of what he did in New Jersey as Governor with the sales pitch that he’s going to be giving the nation.”
Katz first blogged about Christie for the Philadelphia Inquirer. These days he’s writing a book about the Governor and producing a new podcast called “The Christie Tracker“ that can be heard on WNYC.org, NJ.com and NewsWorks.org
He says the Governor’s team is using his well-documented tell-it-to-you straight Jersey attitude as proof that Christie speaks frankly on any issue, regardless of the politics.
“His people compare the fact that he’ll go to a far-right conference … with the fact that he goes to Camden High School,” said Katz.
“The bottom line to all of that is that he’s electable.”
But Christie hasn’t made it this far by chance. Katz also says the Governor’s communications staff has orchestrated a very strategic image campaign since taking office. The Governor’s office strategically posts YouTube videos of Christie zingers, send out tweets, and even feed exclusives to media outlets to bolster the Governor’s public profile.
For instance, last year when Christie traveled to Mexico on a state trip, his team gave the scoop to the New York Times, which ran a front-page story about the trip and about Christie’s outreach to the Latino community ahead of a possible run for President.
“If the Governor had sent out a press release like most politicians would do, telling all reporters ‘hey, I’m going to Mexico for a state trip,’ that would not have gotten on the front page of the New York Times,” Katz said.
Katz is continuing to track Christie’s moves and document them on the radio, the web, and through social media. He says his own expertise of the controversial conservative is valuable, especially in light of Christie’s national ambitions.
“I do think that’s something important given that people are gonna be weighing whether to make this guy the leader of the free world.”