The big problem for Christie is that these two ostensibly separate concerns—his temperament and his problems with the base—are likely to merge in unpleasant ways. If there is one thing about Christie that does appeal to the Tea Party crowd, it is his demeanor. (I am uncertain that even hardcore right-wingers will enjoy Christie’s personality after being exposed to it day after day for a year, but let’s leave that aside.) They love his disdain for liberals and unions, his “straight talk,” and his seemingly anti-establishment, regular-guy shtick. (Ironically, it’s this anti-establishment shtick that seems to have endeared Christie to the Republican establishment, from the Wall Street Journal editorial page to the Lords of Finance.)
When Christie is inevitably attacked by his competitors on some of the issues Cohn mentions, then expect him to go into full-bore angry guy mode. The GOP primary is thus going to set up a dynamic in which Christie will have to rely on his worst instincts. If you think Mitt Romney was forced into unpalatable general election positions during his primary campaign, just wait until Christie uses his anger to deflect attacks and provides a whole slew of new YouTube clips. The other option is to rebrand himself as a staunch rightwinger, which could do the trick in the primary, but will also hinder his efforts to be a different type of Republican.