Although his stock as a Republican vice presidential contender appears to be tumbling, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continues to ride high as his party’s unrivaled Straight Talker in Chief.
During a speech in Washington this week, the combative Christie accused President Obama of trying to “extort” states to accept expanded Medicaid coverage in his health care reform law. He praised the Supreme Court for knocking out that provision while upholding the law’s constitutionality.
“I’m really glad that a majority of the Supreme Court still supports the proposition . . . that extortion is still illegal in the country even when done by the President of the United States,” Christie told a gathering at the Brookings Institution.
He blasted his critics back home for asserting that his tough budget-cutting measures and state employee pension reforms would lead to the “end of the world as we know it” and constitute “throwing Grandma off the cliff.” He also offered his unvarnished advice to Washington politicians: “You can’t lead by being a mystery. You can’t lead by being an enigma. You can’t lead by being aloof. You can’t lead by being programmed.”
Did he have had in mind the cool and calculating Mitt Romney when he offered that last bit of advice, as some political analysts suspect? There’s no way of knowing. But the rotund, shoot-from-the-hip Christie sounded and looked like a man very much unconcerned about offending anyone during his speech.
"We shouldn't be listening to political consultants whispering in our ears, 'Say as little as possible,' we shouldn't be listening to those voices that say, 'Just use the party doctrine and don't stray,’” Christie said. “We should be telling people how we think and how we feel and let them judge us up or down.”
HARD CHARGER FROM THE GARDEN STATE
A lawyer and former U.S. attorney, Christie, 49, broke onto the national scene in early 2011 as a tough-minded conservative governor who was willing to take on New Jersey’s state government bureaucracy and public employee unions to wipe out a big budget deficit. He burnished his bulldog reputation by publicly upbraiding state workers and residents who took exception to his tough fiscal policies. And he made national headlines last year during Hurricane Irene for ordering people to “get the hell off the beach” in his state or risk injuring themselves or others.
Not surprisingly, the news media and GOP operatives soon hailed him as a potential candidate for president, especially in light of what appeared to be a relatively weak field of Republican candidates. But after much soul searching and political soundings, Christie said last October he wouldn’t run for president in 2012.
“Now is not my time,” he announced in Trenton. “I have a commitment to the people of New Jersey… . People sent me to Trenton to get a job done, and I’m just not prepared to walk away.”
Christie also brushed off talk of running for vice president, saying, “I don’t think there’s anybody in America who’d say my personality is best suited to being a No. 2.”
A week later, on Oct. 11, Christie endorsed Romney in Hanover, N.H., just hours before the Republican candidates were set to gather for a debate at Dartmouth College. Christie threw his support to Romney at a critical juncture, just when Texas Gov. Rick Perry had fallen back in the polls and businessman Herman Caine was surging in the polls.
“America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney's the man we need to lead America and we need him now,” Christie said. With that, Christie was suddenly in contention to become the VP nominee, if Romney managed to win the nomination.