TRENTON, N.J. — Coyness is not part of Chris Christies repertoire, which does not stress subtlety. New Jerseys governor is more Mickey Spillane than Jane Austen. His persona, which sometimes is that of a bulldog who got up on the wrong side of the bed, is so popular he seems to be cruising toward re-election this November. He does not deny that he might look beyond that.
By GEORGE F. WILL
The Washington Post
His budget for 2013 calls for spending less than did the states 2008 budget. He has vetoed a tax on millionaires three times. He has scrapped, exuberantly, with public employee unions. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, 41,000 families are still homeless. Nevertheless, 61 percent of his constituents think the state is on the right track, compared to 27 percent who thought so when he entered office three years ago.
His 74 percent job approval includes 56 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of independents. This in a state where only 29 percent view the GOP favorably.
When the U.S. House of Representatives pondered longer than he thought proper in considering the bill for aiding Sandys victims, Christie placed, in less than an hour, four unanswered late-evening calls to Speaker John Boehner, calls that were, Christie says mildly, increasingly agitated. At last, Christie did his best imitation of Vesuvius, denouncing Boehner by name. The approval-disapproval numbers for his eruption were 79-15, including 70-22 among Republicans. People may not like government but they enjoy one operatic governor.
Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, accused Christie of throwing a tantrum. Christies pugnacity emerges: I want to see the next time a hurricane comes to Kentucky.
Such Sturm und Drang earned Christie an appearance on Time magazines cover a photo making him look very like New Jerseys Tony Soprano. Beneath the photo were two words The Boss. Time told him the reference was to New Jerseys Bruce Springsteen. Christie isnt buying that, but neither does it bother him.
He is potentially the un-Romney of Republican presidential politics, the candidate who connects viscerally, sometimes perhaps too much so, with voters. Although he campaigned hard for Mitt Romney in 2012 and was one of the first governors to endorse him, in 2011 Christie told Oprah that Romney doesnt connect with people. No one knows how the Republican nominating electorate of 2016 will feel about the idea of selecting a second consecutive Eastern governor from a blue state. The presidency, Christie says, is the most personal vote people cast, and he distils into two words the lesson of 2012: Candidates matter.
He calls the GOPs decision, made in the run-up to 2012, to lengthen the nominating process the stupidest thing the Republican Party ever did. When the process is too protracted, You wind up with a good candidate whos damaged. Although he understands the lacerating rigor of a nomination campaign, I may not do it but it wont be for that reason.
He heartily agrees with the axiom that the most likable candidate usually wins presidential elections, and he understands that combativeness that might serve a governor might be inappropriate for a president, who people want cloaked in a particular dignity. Christie says, The image of me nationally is a little skewed. What he calls his yelling and screaming is very limited and always tactical. He thinks even voters choosing a president want someone who has that club in his golf bag.
Cory Booker, Newarks Democratic mayor, supposedly has a bright future but it will not be as New Jerseys governor any time soon. He has challenged the re-nomination of an incumbent Democratic senator, 89-year-old Frank Lautenberg, rather than tangle with Christie, who already has $2.14 million in his campaign treasury and who on Feb. 13 will be given a Silicon Valley fundraiser at the home of Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.
By 2015, the Republican nominating electorate will have forgotten Christies effusive praise of Obamas post-Sandy solicitousness toward New Jersey. And Christie will be the rambunctious fellow who before Sandy described Obama as a man walking around in a dark room looking for the light switch of leadership. Remember the name of Mickey Spillanes famous protagonist: Mike Hammer.
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