Chris Christie has spent the last fifteen months confronting the hard choices in New Jersey. Now he wants Washington DC to do the same. While insisting that it means nothing in terms of the next presidential election, Christie plans to deliver a speech demanding the same kind of courage from Congress and the President as he has demonstrated at the state level — and promises voters are ready for it:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is bringing his blunt talk about fiscal responsibility to Washington this week in a speech sure to stoke speculation about his national prospects – which have intensified in recent weeks as some Republicans openly fret about the strength of their 2012 field.
Like Christie himself, the message he’ll deliver Wednesday at the conservative American Enterprise Institute is unorthodox and straightforward: he accuses both parties, Democrats and Republicans alike, of “timidity” in the face of the coming fiscal calamity.
“It’s hard, but it can be dealt with,” Christie said of his speech, previewed for POLITICO, which will focus on his battles with the state’s teachers unions. “I’m a little mystified as to why they’re not doing it, on either side. Because what we’ve shown in New Jersey is that the public is hungry for this.”
“I don’t think anybody’s ever accused me of being ambiguous. So I think when I get done, they’ll have a good idea of what I’m talking about,” he said.
Ann Coulter warned CPAC that failing to nominate Christie for President in 2012 would mean electoral defeat, but Christie says he’s focused on his first term as governor in New Jersey, not national office. Politico asked him about serving as a VP on the 2012 ticket, but Christie joked that no one would want someone as outspoken as he is for a second banana. That may not really be the real question, as Politico reports that AEI sold out the speech so quickly that reporters will have to follow along from the Internet stream. If he’s that popular, a running mate at either end of the ticket would be glad to have him.
Obviously, Christis has built up incredible popularity, and done so through the counter-intuitive process of telling voters no. Instead of demanding federally-financed public projects, Christie cancels them to save money New Jersey doesn’t have. Rather than offer sweet talk or benign neglect to public-sector unions, Christie goes out of his way to challenge them, and to tell complainers to quit if they don’t like fiscal discipline. Conservatives have issues with Christie’s policies, but they definitely like his style. For decades, the Right has approached fiscal discipline apologetically; Christie makes no apologies at all about swinging an axe to state spending.
Does the DC speech signal a shift towards 2012? It may be difficult in normal circumstances for a first-term Republican governor of a blue state to make inroads in a competitive primary, but these are not normal circumstances. After four-plus years of soaring but empty rhetoric, Americans might just respond to a tough-talking challenger who gets results. Can anyone else tell Obama fugeddaboudit with such authority?