I’m giving you this because, to my surprise, it kicked off a mini-debate among righty bloggers earlier on Twitter over just how serious Christie’s prospects for the nomination are. Christie fans (and even a few non-fans) see this clip as evidence of an unusually formidable retail politician at work — and it’s true, he has the crowd in the palm of his hand. He’s going to blow the Democrats out of the water on Tuesday night, possibly with more than 30 percent of New Jersey’s black voters on his side, and this is one small reason why. Against a no-name candidate, in a state where his persona plays well, his retail advantage is probably worth five points alone, maybe more. After nominating McCain and Romney, it’d be nice to have a guy at the podium who can work an audience.
Here’s the key line, though: “We know each other. The point is, we know each other.” How much of Christiemania in New Jersey is a product of residual goodwill from his handling of Sandy and how much is due to intangibles that’ll translate to a national Republican primary? Before you answer, here’s something new on the wires:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pushed back Thursday against the notion that he changed his position on in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, saying that when he voiced opposition before, it was an issue of cost, and he has always supported the underlying principle.
Mr. Christie, who is running for re-election and is thought to be pondering a White House run in 2016, told reporters on his way out of a campaign stop that “tuition equality is where I always was.”…
Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in 2011, Mr. Christie was showered with applause when he said, “I do not believe that for those people who came here illegally that we should be subsidizing with taxpayer money through in-state tuition their education.”…
But in a keynote address at the 2013 Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey annual gala earlier this month, Mr. Christie changed his tune, saying that the state has an obligation to make sure that children have a better future.
Most righties aren’t going to vote for him no matter how good his retail skills are. Centrists are going to vote for him no matter how good his retail skills are, partly because of his “reasonableness” on issues like in-state tuition for illegals but mostly because of Tuesday night’s results. Question: How much will Christie’s retail skills matter to the people in the middle (the “somewhat conservative”) who typically decide the nomination? Philip Klein of the Examiner and Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard tweeted in response to the clip that Christie’s New York/New Jersey shtick wears awfully thin very quickly in other parts of the country, which could mean disaster in Iowa and New Hampshire. But there’s no way around the fact that Christie will have sterling “electability” credentials in 2016, such that even people who may find him irritating will force themselves to give him a serious look. It may even be that “somewhat conservative” voters talk themselves into liking his shtick because of his electability; if he can convince you that he’s your best chance to win, you’ll find yourself looking for ways to find him acceptable in other respects. He is, undoubtedly, a stark contrast with Hillary Clinton, who’s 1/100th as effective a retail politician as Bill is. Which is to say, maybe there’s no way to draw conclusions from this clip without the spotlight of a campaign shining down on it. If Christie starts to look appealing for other reasons, his “Christieness” will be seen as lovably pugnacious by fencesitters. If he starts to look less appealing due to ideological heresies, it’ll just seem abrasive and a curio from a gubernatorial campaign that was more about post-storm Jersey solidarity than anything national voters would care about.