Is Blunt But Colorful Christie a VP Match for Romney?

Is Blunt But Colorful Christie a VP Match for Romney?

By Scott Conroy - June 1, 2012

With his endorsement of Mitt Romney in October, Chris Christie showed off his political skills by making the case for the now-presumptive Republican nominee more concisely and emphatically than just about anyone had to that point.

As Christie addressed a packed house of reporters just hours before Romney squared off in a debate with his rivals in Hanover, N.H., several of the candidate’s senior aides smiled broadly and exchanged knowing glances. The reason: The charismatic New Jersey governor effortlessly defended Romney’s controversial Massachusetts health care plan in a way that Romney himself had struggled to do for months.

"Mitt Romney is the man we need to lead America, and we need him now," Christie said in summing up his case.

It was the kind of comment that would have sounded pedestrian if uttered by almost any other politician, but in this case it had an impact, largely because of how Christie said it. And that intangible ability to connect with his audience is at the heart of his appeal.

Christie possesses several of the attributes considered essential for a vice-presidential candidate: He’s accomplished, media-savvy, perceived as a strong leader, eager to play the attack dog role, and is adept at singing the praises of the man at the top of the ticket convincingly and without equivocation.

His most glaring drawback as a potential running mate is perhaps his penchant for outshining everyone in the room -- a concern to which he lent credence in an interview last year on “Meet the Press.”

“Can you imagine? The person who picked me as vice president would have to be sedated,” Christie said. “I’m not vice-presidential material.”

Since then, his public pronouncements when asked the VP question have mellowed -- to the point of sounding increasingly open to the possibility that Romney might indeed call his name.

Though Christie has taken full advantage of his confrontational and irreverent style to amass considerable star power among conservatives nationwide, advisers note that his success in the Garden State is based far more on substance than sizzle.

Christie took office in 2009 promising to balance the state’s budget, restructure its pension system and tackle education reform. Though the pushback from opponents in the deep-blue state has been vocal and extensive, his approval rating has increased as he implemented his first two major goals and brought the third to the top of his current agenda.

A Farleigh-Dickinson poll released last month showed Christie’s approval rating in New Jersey had risen to 56 percent, while only 33 percent disapproved -- a sizable increase from the previous year when 44 percent approved and 44 disapproved of his job performance.

“One of his great strengths is that he’s focused on the big things that’ll really make a difference in the state,” said Christie adviser Bob Grady.

Grady shrugged off the governor’s previous suggestions that he would not make a suitable second fiddle to anyone. “He’s been a leader and aggressive in pursuing his own positions, but I don’t think that’s an issue,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s Gov. Romney’s choice, and I don’t think [Christie’s] campaigning for the job. I think he’s doing the best job he can for New Jersey, but he’s obviously been very supportive of Mitt.”

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

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