Kevin Riordan: With Christie out of the running, no fear of voting for him

Gov. Christie made his announcement, then added: "New Jersey, whether you like me or not, you're stuck with me."
Gov. Christie made his announcement, then added: "New Jersey, whether you like me or not, you're stuck with me." (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 06, 2011

I'm so glad Chris Christie won't be running for president.

Otherwise, I might well have voted for him - an uncomfortable admission for a congenital Democrat.

I confess: I like the guy. As my dismay with the floundering President Obama deepens, so does my appreciation for the capable, colorful, and, yes, charismatic Christie.

It hurts to say this, given how vividly I remember my first presidential election.

To a blue-collar, Irish Catholic, Massachusetts boy in 1960, JFK was a superhero.

His opponent seemed old, odd, even sinister. Ah, the wisdom of children.

Later, my absentee ballot for George McGovern launched a streak. Though even my late father, an immigrant and union member, went for Reagan at least once, I've kept the faith.

In every presidential election since 1972, I've stuck with the Democrats.

So imagine my surprise to find myself flirting with Christie, whom some of my friends abhor and whose less-enchanting qualities can't be ignored.

But even when I don't agree with the governor, which is often, I admire that he says what he means and vice versa.

Christie is right to seek the reform of public school systems that are better at job creation than education. He's right to ask public employees to pay more toward pensions and bennies. And he's right to get state and municipal spending under control.

My unrequited bromance is not an embrace of the governor's entire agenda. Nor does it signal allegiance to his increasingly theocratic party.

Today's GOP fringe, which sees government as satanic, makes the Republicans I grew up with seem like liberals.

Or at least, the way liberals used to be, before Obama. This increasingly centrist president is a socialist? Please. He's about as radical as Richard Nixon.

A mere three years ago, Obama did look like a one-man revolution.

Reading the books and listening to the speeches of this refreshing new leader, I was swept away. At last, a candidate who could inspire! A man who could lift our nation out of the Bush-era mire!

So smitten was I by Obama the transformer - the superhero - that I didn't care if this good and gifted man had a thin resumé.

His opponents noticed, and have made the most of his inexperience ever since.

(Dear Mr. President: Golfing with John Boehner is one thing, but trying to swim with a shark like Eric Cantor is something else. First, he eats your lunch, then . . .)

As Obama campaigns, exhorting us to "pass this bill" and "win the future" - the latter even more inane than the '70s classic "Whip Inflation Now" - I barely listen.

I've given up hoping the "real" Obama will emerge from the atheneum of his mind, where he appears to have presided over a civics symposium since his inauguration.

Remember that? It was a time of such optimism. Sort of like the last week of Christie-mania, minus that plaintive FedEx plea from a desperate Nebraska farmer.

But our governor has made yet another savvy decision. He's not running for president, and he's making my life a lot simpler.

With the exception of Jon Huntsman, the GOP candidates range from unappealing to appalling.

So I'll likely extend my Democratic streak.

"New Jersey," Christie said Tuesday, "whether you like me or not, you're stuck with me."

Stuck. I know the feeling.


Contact staff writer Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845, kriordan@phillynews.com, or @inqkriordan on Twitter. Read the metro columnists' blog, "Blinq," at http://www.philly.com/blinq.

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