Christie Our Savior
Why this week's Republican messiah is no better than last week's.
"Here is the truth that no one is talking about," said Christie then, referring to a truth some people were already talking about. "You're going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security. Oh, I just said it and I'm still standing here! I did not vaporize into the carpeting and I said it! We have to reform Medicare because it costs too much and it is going to bankrupt us. Once again lightning did not come through the windows and strike me dead. And we have to fix Medicaid because it's not only bankrupting the federal government, it's bankrupting every state government. There you go."
Christie's "vaporize into the carpeting" line was a winner; Daniels quoted it Monday in a speech in the very same room at the very same think tank. Yet he was saying, without specifics, what everyone in Washington says, sometimes with more specifics.
As a noncandidate, Christie has stuck to talking about a few issues that the punditocracy and voters can't get enough of: greedy public-sector unions, school reform, and why Washington doesn't work. Is he better at it than other Republicans? Better than most, sure, but he gets to pick his forums—speeches, interviews, town halls. When he had to debate opponents in 2009, he was poorly reviewed for, of all things, a deficit of straight talk. The 2012 season has been one long repetition of a three-act play:
1. Build up dark-horse candidate who offers something that no one else does.
2. Pile on the candidate for flubbing something at a key moment.
3. Build up dark-horse candidate who offers something that no one else does.
We can understand if Christie wants to just skip it—right after using his national profile for some speeches and fundraisers. We can choose not to overinterpret tea leaves like the affection David Koch has for Christie. (Is there a Republican presidential nominee who won't get his support?) We can read the polls that show Republicans are actually getting more and more comfortable with their choices. And maybe we can stop pretending that a messy ideological primary is something that needs to be "fixed" by a perfect candidate.
My former colleague Tim Noah used to have a feature called the "Obama Messiah Watch," a star search for the mooniest, most worshipful quotes about the senator who became president. As long as Christie remains the Republican savior, I will collect quotes from admirers who imbue the governor with immense powers, more than any other human candidate can offer. Today it's former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, from a Sept. 26 interview with Robert Costa of the National Review.
"He is the best speaker I may have ever heard in politics. In an era when most people suspect that politicians read polls and then tell you what they think, people don't believe he's that kind of a fellow. He tells you what he thinks, period. We like that around here."
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David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet at him @daveweigel.
Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images.