TPM Reader LF has a less flattering take on the Governor across the river …
I think that Chris Christie can be related to another Republican politician whose presidential ambitions, once seen as highly realistic, faded because his personality became too apparent—Rudy Giuliani.
Like Christie, Giuliani was a bombastic executive who rose to prominence as a tough-as-nails prosecutor in bare-knuckles US Attorneys’ offices. They both tended to “wear their emotions on their sleeve” as you very generously put it. Or put another way, Christie and Giuliani are both assholes.
Giuliani’s personality was both the key to his political success, as well as the surest reason for its failure. He beat an unpopular incumbent, his tough love for a tough city was seen as the key in turning New York City around. But by the summer of 2001 he had become somewhat unpopular. His style of leadership was once again effective on 9/11 and its immediate aftermath. Giuliani’s presidential campaign started off with him as the far-and-away front-runner, but suffered because he lost support as people got to know him. Ultimately, the asshole attitude did not play.
Christie similarly beat an unpopular opponent and his “no nonsense” approach earned praise in tough times. But he was facing a tough re-election (at best a 50-50 chance) until Sandy gave him an opportunity to once again showcase his tough (and possibly by necessity bi-partisan) approach, winning him plaudits in a time of emergency, and scaring off his most serious Democratic challengers.
I suspect that like Giuliani, Christie’s personality is likely to grate on the public once the emergency has passed. It’s not a surprise that both are from the New York/New Jersey area. Let’s face it; other “heart on the sleeve” politicians (with attitudes often less pronounced than Christie and Giuliani) from the area who are popular in their home state—Anthony Weiner (before Weiner-gate), Chuck Schumer, Peter King—don’t play as well on the national stage. For whatever reasons (and, there are good and many bad reasons), what is endearing in the New York metro area is not endearing at Iowa Fairs and New Hampshire Town Meetings.
True, Giuliani had more pronounced problems from a policy standpoint—being a thrice married pro-choice, pro gay rights, pro gun control urban mayor is probably the exact opposite of the profile of a Republican presidential candidate. But some—or at least enough—of Christie’s appeal has been a willingness to take moderate positions, and that may play even worse in a 2016 Republican Primary than it did in 2008.
(A last note—Christie’s public blow-up is remarkably uncalled for. The apparent health of a President or presidential candidate is a matter of public interest. Certainly whether Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, or John McCain were central issues in their campaigns—and whether Joe Biden might would certainly be, if that campaign comes to pass—a pretty obvious health risk like Christie’s is fair game. It may well gnaw on him personally, and I have sympathy for that, but telling her in a press conference to “shut up” is just plain wrong from a political standpoint—putting aside the bizarre personal call to her afterwards.)
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.