Chris Christie Makes Play for Stressed Voters in Presidential Announcement

Chris Christie
Photo: Julio Cortez/Corbis

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie went to Livingston High School on Tuesday to announce that he is running for president, just as everyone expected he would. 

Like most presidential announcements, his speech was mostly devoid of policy, so it was easy for those watching to instead focus on the silliest things that Christie said instead — like confirming that he was not running for prom king of America while standing in his high school. 

I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, but I’m not in this business to get elected to prom king,” he said. “My job is to lead, and that’s what I try to do.”

Since the list of confirmed Americans running for this position is much shorter than the list of people running for president, debating what such an electoral contest would entail seemed like a far more interesting endeavor than considering whether someone with a 31 percent approval rating in his state is likely to become president.

Christie’s prom king line was mainly an opening for the big sell on the one thing that Christie has that other Republican candidates don’t: Christie’s personality.

I am not looking to be the most popular guy who looks in your eyes every day and says what you want to hear and turn around and do something else,” he said. 

Unfortunately, the event was too well planned, and the attendees too carefully chosen, for a truly effective showcase of Christie’s ability to say whatever he feels like.

Instead of hecklers, the Christie presidential announcement featured a guy who was definitely among the minority of voters who think Christie is doing a good job in New Jersey.

According to the Associated Press, Christie told donors and friends on a call earlier this morning, “The idea of going back to where you were when you were 15, or 16, or 17 years old, and to be able to stand in front of that group of people and offer yourself to the presidency is a really, really amazing moment.” 

Many of Christie’s overtures seemed familiar — perhaps because he has been preceded by more than a dozen presidential contenders already at the announcement game. 

Despite the similarities, there are the requisite minor differences in tone that make telling apart GOP candidates like a game of “Spot the Difference.” Christie, like many others in the field, has positioned himself as a Washington outsider. But while most rivals are trying to rally those angry about the federal government, Christie is instead trying to shepherd the anxious masses. And, as a Northeast Republican, he is happy to blame — like most of the country — both parties for America’s problems and present bipartisan bona fides. 

Americans are filled with anxiety,” he said. “They are filled with anxiety because they look to Washington, D.C., and they see a government that not only doesn’t work anymore, it doesn’t even talk to each other anymore. It doesn’t even pretend to work. We have a president in the Oval Office who ignores the Congress and a Congress that ignores the president.”

Given Christie’s general moderate-ness — a political necessity given that he is governor of a blue state — he was never going to have an easy go in the primaries, which feature far more conservative and ideological voters than the general election. He’s betting on New Hampshire — just like fellow Republican Northeastern long shot George Pataki — and is headed up there for the Fourth of July weekend.

Does Christie’s announcement mean that presidential announcement season is finally over? Nope. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plans to announce next month … 

… and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb is still thinking about whether he wants to get into the less crowded, if still hard on long shots, Democratic primary. 

Christie Wants to Be Candidate for the Anxious