Chris Christie: New Jersey's Political Showman and Viral Sensation

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

With the Republican and Democratic national conventions just around the corner, it's time to consider potential vice presidential candidates. Yesterday The Takeaway discussed the prospect of Mitt Romney picking Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman. He's emerging as one of several favorites. 

ML Schultze from member station WKSU said Portman “Is as low key as can be in a politician. I've never met anyone whose blood pressure seems calmer.”

That description couldn’t be any further from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the political showman and viral video sensation. The former U.S. attorney has become a major player in the GOP party. But is he too powerful and charismatic to serve as Romney's deputy?

Bob Hennelly, contributing editor for politics and investigations for WNYC, has been following Christie's grandiose New Jersey appearances. The governor began his political career as a freeholder in Morris County, New Jersey, before being appointed as New Jersey's Attorney General in 2001. 

Since he was elected governor in 2009, Christie has become well known for his charisma and genuine nature. His press conferences are open to the public, and the governor, Hennelly says, does not shy away from responding to questions or criticism by ordinary citizens.

“He's willing to entertain questions from [opponents], and that's the thing about it. He's doing the work of a public servant by submitting himself to questions,” Hennelly says. "I don't think [Mitt] Romney or [Barack] Obama could do it." 

Christie has cultivated a reputation for bipartisanship and compromise. During negotiations with the New Jersey teacher’s union, he managed to hammer out an agreement with support from both sides of the aisle. "He asked them to get a simple pay freeze so that they wouldn't have to fire new hires. The New Jersey Education Association blew him off, and that sent him into orbit, because it looked like he was being reasonable."  

"Two years later, there is major tenure reform on the verge [of happening] in New Jersey," Hennelly says. "He got the NJEA to come to the table."  

"He forged this bipartisan coalition with some Democrats, and that's his skill — the ability to peel off key Democrats."  

As is the case with just about every state, Christie faces a slow economy and shrinking budgets. He is currently fighting for more tax cuts for New Jersey on the grounds that the state can afford it, but not everyone agrees. David Rosen, who works in the Office of Legislative Services, warned that the state could come up at least $1 billion short in revenue by this time next year. 

"He talks about how he's saving us all this money, and it's at the expense of the population that is falling into poverty," a New Jersey woman who attended one of his recent meetings said.

In terms of a potential vice presidential candidate, Hennelly says that Christie's direct, outspoken manner would make for an exciting matchup against Vice President Joe Biden in the vice presidential debates. 

"If Romney loses, then [Christie] looks like a good yeoman who put something at risk for the party and for his grand vision," Hennelly says. "For Romney, it's a wild card."    

Guests:

Bob Hennelly

Produced by:

Robert Balint and Paul R. Smith

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