Chris Christie, the Justin Bieber of Political Media

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 12 2010 12:02 PM

Chris Christie, the Justin Bieber of Political Media

This might be an obvious point about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but I haven't seen anyone make it yet. The man's political operation is extraordinary. The legend of Christie as blunt-talking master of truth and invective has been built up in large part by his staff's assiduous use of video. The GovChristie YouTube account is constantly uploading footage of Christie giving it to questioners and appearing on TV shows.

Here's the latest example -- an upload of an emotional, largely policy-free closing statement from a Christie town hall on the "Christie Reform Agenda." (Note the branding and the massive sign behind him.)

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What's extraordinary about this? No other governor uses free online video like this! You'd think it would be an obvious alley-oop, but it isn't. Bob McDonnell, the other Republican governor elected in 2009, has only uploaded six YouTube videos since being inaugurated, all of them media hits. The YouTube account of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear , who is up in 2011, has one video -- his announcement of a re-election bid. Tim Pawlenty, a sitting governor who is obviously running for president in 2012, has a YouTube account , but it compiles his media hits and his straight-to-camera greetings in various campaign stops. None of that is as compelling as video of a politician sparring with reporters or town hall questioners.

And that's where Christie's fame has come from! He makes news less for his specific accomplishments, more for viral videos of himself taking names, which are rebroadcast on conservative sites, talk radio, and cable news. Pawlenty's communications team tried, and partly succeeded, in drawing national attention to a win he pulled out on the 2010 state budget, but there was no visual excitement. A single video of him taking on critics at a town hall would have made more of an impression with national Tea Party activists than what he got from that, a Politico cover story on his tricky political win. Christie's team realize that winning fame as a national politician is not altogether different than winning fame as a budding Canadian pop star .

I'm amazed that no other Republican or Democrat who wants to make a national impression has done what Christie did -- hire a new media director and have him pump out video of the man at his best.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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