John Baer: Chris Christie's hard sell for the future

New Jersey Gov. Christie takes the stage Tuesday night to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention.
New Jersey Gov. Christie takes the stage Tuesday night to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. (MARK WILSON / GETTY IMAGES)
Posted: August 30, 2012

IT WAS THE Odd Couple, Good Cop/Bad Cop, Beauty and the Beast, pick any divergent duo.

Ann Romney and Chris Christie fit the bill.

They looked different, sounded different and delivered different messages to the Republican National Convention Tuesday night.

But their aim was the same: blend together to (a) convince America that Mitt Romney is a caring human being and (b) sell voters on the notion that he and his party have tough-love solutions to move the nation forward.

It was a one-two punch.

Ann Romney did the setup, a soft sell about a husband and father whom the country doesn't know, a man she met at a high-school dance who "at every turn of his life . . . has helped lift up others."

She spoke of their 43-year marriage, their five sons, her battles with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer, and said that her husband "will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems others say can't be solved."

Then Christie did the hard sell, a staccato flurry with an occasional roundhouse that sought to knock Democrats down while building Republicans up.

In drawing contrasts, the New Jersey governor portrayed Republicans as truth-tellers willing to make tough decisions and Democrats as liars who think the American people "need to be coddled by big government."

He said that Republicans are unafraid to face fiscal realities, cut spending and reduce government, while Democrats "believe the American people are content to live the lie with them."

Republicans, he said, believe that seniors want Social Security secured for the future, while Democrats see seniors as selfish and believe that "seniors will always put themselves ahead of their grandchildren."

He said Republicans want to reform education while Democrats want to protect the education establishment: "They believe in teachers' unions," he said. "We believe in teachers."

It was tough, Christie-like, in-your-face stuff.

There was stuff about his fighting unions and deficits in Jersey, but no mention of his state's unemployment rate: 9.8 percent, well above the nation's 8.3 percent average and 47th worst in the country behind only California, Rhode Island and Nevada.

There was no reference to his oft-touted "Jersey Comeback" because it is, well, still way back.

Yet, there he was, a darling of the GOP base - even though he believes in the science of man-made global warming, supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, favors some gun-control laws and, gasp, political compromise - doing a snap- crackle-pop routine to the delight of the delegates.

It was leadership, leadership, leadership, conviction and telling the truth. And, oh, by the way, Mitt Romney's the guy we need right now.

He even tossed out a "we are taking our country back," a tea-party bone.

But he never mentioned Barack Obama.

My guess is that's because he's not running against Obama.

For Christie's keynote, designed to sell a Republican vision for the near future, clearly was also about selling himself for a more distant future.

There is precedent. Past keynoters in both parties later ran for president or became president.

In 1964, the GOP keynote was by Ronald Reagan. He was elected president in 1980.

In '92, Democrat Bill Bradley spoke in New York and ran for president in 2000.

And, of course, Obama spoke in Boston (as an Illinois state senator) in '04 and won the presidency four years later.

So no matter who wins the election this year, look for Christie to join the list of those who used a keynote address for more than a one-night gig.


Contact John Baer at baerj@phillynews.com. For his recent columns, go to philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.ph

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