"Politics is a feeling"

Which is why time spent with Gov. Chris Christie this week felt like a tonic, an antidote to the prevailing mood. What I saw as he kicked off a seven-day New Jersey bus tour was the lost pleasure of politics. We forget: It’s supposed to be fun. Mr. Christie is cruising to a big win as a red-state figure in a deep blue state, so he’s got a lot to be happy about. But his pleasure in the game and the meaning of the game—his remembering that on some level it is a game, to be won or lost, to cheers or boos—is a clue to the mood with which a great party might approach its work. So here we put aside policy questions to take a look at what winning looks like, and sounds like.

Mr. Christie on the trail: hustle, bustle, applause, cameras, hugging—a lot—autographing. Everybody’s smartphone in the air. “Governor, Governor!” The crowds are big and enthusiastic. A stop in Linden had people lined up four and five deep more than half a block down the main street. It was the kind of crowd a presidential candidate gets early on. A woman—60s, retired from a hospital—said, “I’m so excited, I feel like I’m meeting a movie star. He’s like me. I feel like he’s telling the truth.” Is she a Republican? “I’m a registered Democrat. I don’t care what party you’re from.” A woman at the Ritz Diner in Livingston told why she’s for Mr. Christie: “He can get things done because he can go between the aisles. Harry Reid and the president won’t even talk to the other side.” This was a prevailing theme: a yearning for bipartisan progress, and support for his abilities in this area. Ellie Cohen, a Democrat who knew Mr. Christie’s mother, Sandy, described her as colorful, funny, direct. “She was . . . Thelma Ritter, if you know what I mean. He’s like her.”