Chris Christie at AEI: I might campaign against Republicans who dodge the entitlement issue

Lottttt of excited buzz today on Twitter among grassroots conservatives who watched the speech online as it happened. You can view the whole thing at AEI’s website, but the two clips below capture the spirit of the moment: Straight talk on entitlements, whatever the political cost. In fact, although it’s not included in the clips, he actually went this far:

This afternoon at the American Enterprise Institute, New Jersey governor Chris Christie said he wants House Republicans to “put up or shut up” on entitlement reform and had a message for those candidates he campaigned for in 2010: “If the people who I campaigned for don’t stand up and do the right thing, the next time they’ll see me in their district [it will be] with my arm around their primary opponent,” Christie said. “Because you asked me to put my reputation on the line for you based on a promise that you were going to deal with these hard issues.”

He cites his own positive approval rating in deep-blue New Jersey as proof that the public’s ready to have this debate, but I’m not remotely convinced that that’s true. (Eyeball these numbers, especially the ones among tea partiers.) It’s more true, I think, that the public might be ready for this debate if he leads it, but he joked today that he may have to commit suicide just to prove to people that he really isn’t running. Says Ace:

It is really, really too bad Christie is not running. He is a very effective spokesman. He has something crucial, too: Even though I know he is a politician and I know he therefore deceives for political gain and even though I know he plays to the camera for YouTube videos — he seems like he’s not running for anything. He seems like he’s just hear to tell you the facts and not bullsh*t you at all.

Combine that sort of personal profile with his obvious total command of the higher-brain math and budget issues, and you’ve really got something.

You’ve got authority. Which is ultimately what “gravitas” is. Authority, command.

Yeah, the irony of Christie’s rise to superstardom is that, for all the goofing we do on Democrats and their “messaging” obsession, that’s really his key selling point. Messaging. It’s not that his solutions to Jersey’s budget problems are somehow novel or ingenious, it’s that (a) he’s willing to back the obvious solutions to the hilt, no matter the political risk, and (b) he has a genuine gift for persuading people that this is the right thing to do, notwithstanding the sacrifices involved. And of course, the second point affects the first one: It’s because Christie can sell fiscal conservatism, red in tooth and claw, like virtually no one else that the political risk to him is less than it is to anyone else. Which, of course, is why so many righties want him to run even though he’s so RINO-y on other issues. If he can soften national opinion on entitlement reform, other Republicans will feel safer in speaking up and suddenly you’ve got momentum. Making the world safe for sustainability, one soundbite at a time!

If you can’t spare the time to watch the full speech, Dan Foster at NRO has a full rundown of the key points. He took a few (polite) swipes at Obama too, sometimes directly and sometimes — as in the second clip below, where he talks about failure of leadership — indirectly. According to Politico, which gave him an “A” for the speech, the audience ate up every word. Exit quotation via Foster: “If you want to shut down the government, that’s fine. I’m gonna get in those black SUVs, go to the governor’s residence, go upstairs, open a beer, order a pizza, and watch the Mets.”