If there’s a lesson to be learned from the topsy-turvy 2016 campaign, it’s that if a candidate sounds sufficiently tough, many Republicans will overlook the ideological heresies in his past. Exhibit A will forever be Donald Trump, but Chris Christie makes a strong Exhibit B.
Christie is rising. He’s doubled his support in New Hampshire since early November, climbing to third or fourth in the latest Granite State polls, and is said to be rising in the race to be an “establishment” alternative to the likes of Trump and Ted Cruz.
In part, Christie’s current “moment” reflects a masterful ability to sound pugnaciously conservative despite a mixed political record. In the debates, he demonstrates his natural gifts as a communicator, staring directly at the camera and speaking straightforwardly to viewers in their living rooms. He repeats the same anecdotes, jokes, and talking points with such fluidity that the average voter wouldn’t know he’s used them 1,000 times before. He bristles with impatience at arguments between his rivals, sneering with boredom, and mocks their minute disagreements as “endless debate about how many angels fit on the head of a pin.”