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Is Blunt But Colorful Christie a VP Match for Romney?

By Scott Conroy - June 1, 2012

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Christie’s blue-collar sensibilities and informal demeanor on the stump might make for a nice complement to the at times awkward and inaccessible Romney, but one concern is that his Jersey roots would not add much in the way of geographical diversity to the ticket.

Bruce Rastetter, a prominent Iowa Republican fundraiser who helped lead the failed effort to draft Christie into the presidential race last year, professed not to have any misgivings about pairing two northeasterners.

“I think he plays well in the Midwest, and his honesty plays well across the country,” said Rastetter, who last spoke with Christie at a Romney fundraiser last week. “He’s proven that he was able to fix a state that was in economic trouble and in such a way that he would have to work across the aisle with Democrats, and he did it in a way that was fiscally responsible in a state that had a terrible track record for that.”

In addition to his enthusiastic supporter base that extends far beyond the reaches of the New Jersey Turnpike, Christie has had his share of conservative detractors, who argue that his eagerness to confront Democrats in front of the cameras amounts to idle bluster and masks a relatively moderate record.

Christie has drawn suspicion among some on the right for his statements about the role of human activity in climate change, and his support for an assault weapons ban and opposition to concealed-carry laws; those latter positions prompted concern within the highest echelons of the National Rifle Association about his commitment to gun rights.

In a recent column, The National Review’s Andrew McCarthy called Christie “wildly overrated” and a “cardboard cut-out northeastern GOP moderate proponent of progressive taxation and the welfare state.”

“Sure, his YouTube smackdowns of overmatched lefty hacks are catnip for the Right,” McCarthy wrote. “The routine gets old fast, though. The tantrums have become as mundane as ‘Pass the salt.’ ”

But the skeptics seem to be in the minority, as Christie remains one of the biggest draws for national Republicans on the fundraising circuit and a favorite of many conservative opinion-makers who believe that the GOP ticket needs a personality boost.

Writing in the Washington Post this week, columnist Michael Gerson glowed that Christie stood out in the Republican vice presidential field, citing something in his manner that captures the essence of his appeal.

“When he takes off his jacket at a town hall meeting, someone is in for a rough ride,” Gerson wrote. “But his most exceptional political skill is not confrontation but explanation -- educating voters in the grim realities of state budgeting, public pensions, unfunded liabilities and teacher union obstructionism. He is both pugilist and professor -- a good vice presidential combination.”

Whether or not he is asked to join a ticket, Christie is poised to remain one of Romney’s most visible and active supporters and a likely prospect for national office for the foreseeable future. 

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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