Chris Christie’s support is both a blessing and a curse for Mitt Romney. Unless Sarah Palin decides to make an endorsement, no presidential surrogate can engineer the amount of excitement Christie does. Therein lies the problem for Romney.
His campaign was able to attract 200 Iowans to a campaign rally in West Des Moines on Wednesday. Mitt Romney was not there, but no one seemed to mind. This crowd wanted to listen to the New Jersey Governor. Although the crowd was clearly pro-Romney, it was obvious many of them would be more excited about a Christie candidacy than Mitt Version 2.0.
The question and answer session following Christie’s speech told the story. Only one person asked about Mitt Romney. Three of the seven questions were specifically about Christie’s political future. One lady asked if he would be Romney’s running mate. Another attendee asked if he would run for president in future years.
The last questioner just offered a statement of praise. “I appreciate your common sense approach. It has clearly struck a chord with the American people,” the attendee told the New Jersey governor. The audience applauded in agreement.
In response to the running mate query, Christie expressed doubts. “I will not say ‘absolutely not’. It’s impolite to say no to something that hasn’t been offered,“ he responded. “If you’re a betting woman, I wouldn’t bet on Romney/Christie.” The questioner then made it clear she would like Chris Christie to be on the ballot.
For his part, Christie did the duty of a capable surrogate. He told the crowd Mitt Romney is the only one who can defeat Barack Obama. “I’m completely convinced, that on two bases, that person has to be Mitt Romney of Massachusetts,” he said. “He is by far of the field the most qualified person in the field to be President of the United States.”
The New Jersey governor also illustrated why he thinks a former governor like Romney is more capable of doing the job than the rest of the GOP field. “We’ve seen the last few years what its like to have a legislator in charge,” Christie said. “They’ve never run anything. We’ve seen someone who doesn’t have the first idea how to use executive power or how to provide the right leadership.”
But it was Christie’s charisma and command of the situation that made the biggest impact on the crowd. When a group of Occupy protestors disrupted the event, he handled it coolly, then made them look foolish. “Work it all out,” he told the chanters. As they were being escorted from the building, Christie said, “We’re used to dealing with children like this in New Jersey all the time.”
He also used the disruption to pivot toward a criticism of President Obama. “Their anger is rooted, not in me or Mitt Romney, their anger is rooted in this ‘Hope and Change’ garbage that was promised three years ago,” Christie said. “But they’re not mature enough to know they should be angry with themselves.”
Contrast that response with Mitt Romney’s whining about questions posed to him during an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. It is easy to see which man is more presidential. It’s the one who decided not to run.
Chris Christie believes Mitt Romney “needs to be in Iowa a lot” before the Iowa Caucus. That would require a significant change in strategy. Christie has made almost as many appearances in Iowa as Romney over the past 14 months.
At first glimpse, it seemed odd that the campaign would send Chris Christie out on the trail without Romney. That might have been the right choice. Without even trying, Christie would easily upstage the former Massachusetts governor. Many in the pro-Romney crowd in West Des Moines walked out of the event as stronger supporters of Chris Christie. But the goal was to secure more support for Mitt Romney.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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