Republican Governor of the great state of New Jersey gave the keynote speech to the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay Florida this evening. There was basically two opinions of the speech, and they are not really mutually exclusive.
On one side you had the opinion of people like Rachel Maddow who called the speech:
"The greatest act of political selfishness I've ever seen. This was Christie's acceptance speech for the nomination in 2016."And on the other side you had people like Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw who deemed it a "Barn Burner" with a hint of "Winston Churchill." The correct answer could in fact be both. Barn Burners are not always a good thing in the grand scheme of things, especially if your goal is to represent, showcase and ultimately sell the candidate being nominated.
In that regard I think Chris Christie failed. Follow below the orange cloud thingy for more.
First let's just get the obvious out of the way.
Chris Christie was channeling South Parks Eric Cartman, not Winston Churchill. Churchill was gruff, but he was also charismatic. He had a quick witt and a dry but charming sense of humor. He could take an insult and make it sound like a compliment. People either agreed or disagreed with his conduct and his policies, but as a historical figure he is very likable. If he was a fictional character he would be a classic, a fan favorite even.
Chris Christie is not. Just had to get that out of the way.
Instead he was rude, gruff, mean spirited and not at all gracious toward the candidate and his wife, the party as an establishment or the audience who had gathered to hear him speak. It is unusual for instance for a speaker to not at all acknowledge the person who held the podium before him. Especially when that person was more of less the most important speaker of the evening. In this case Ann Romney. He did not thank her. He did not say good job. He even contradicted the main theme of her entire speech.
Second while he may have fired up the base he didn't do a very good job of selling Mitt Romney to Americans. Perhaps this was not his goal. It can be argued that since the major networks were not covering the convention today, and since the majority of people will read about his remarks in tomorrows papers, or see small sound bites on tomorrows morning shows, he could spend the entire speech talking about himself to the diehards, letting the media do the job of plucking out the few tidbits of Romney support for mass consumption.
Which of course raises the question about why Chris Christie would want to make himself the centerpiece of the keynote address of the 2012 Republican National Convention. The obvious answer is Christie knows what we all know.
Mitt Romney is going to lose.
Even if Christie doesn't want to admit this he was at least acknowledging as much with that speech. This was a speech that was all about Christie. Chris Christie was admitting Republican defeat by casting himself as the best man to run for President in 2016. Essentially Chris Christie was trying to pull an Obama. He wanted to get up there in front of the GOP and make a name for himself so that he could run in 2016 as the guy who got the base fired up and ready to go.
In fact Chris Christie actually took a few points out of the Obama playbook. I actually thought he was going follow the Obama 2004 Convention Speech outline throughout his speech but he very quickly veered off course.
Obama started his 2004 speech by proclaiming and I quote:
Tonight is a particular honor for me because — let’s face it — my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father — my grandfather — was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.Likewise Chris Christie took a very similar approach to the opening of his remarks:
This stage and this moment are very improbable for me. A New Jersey Republican delivering the keynote address to our national convention, from a state with 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans. A New Jersey Republican stands before you tonight.Both speeches then go on to explain the history of the speakers parents and family. Both took advantage of the G.I. Bill for instance. But that is where the similarities end. Since the Christie Speech is still fresh in your mind, have a quick watch of then Senator Barack Obama's 2004 Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention.
First off notice how quickly and effortlessly he praises Dick Durban, who spoke before him, and how swiftly he both makes the case for the Democratic Parties viewpoint and segways into a full throated endorsement of John Kerry as the man to lead us toward that vision. It takes Obama only 8 Minutes to tell his personal story, his view of what makes this country great and express his support for Senator Kerry. 8 Minutes.
I am not sure of the exact time, as it seemed to drag on and on forever but it was certainly more than 20 minutes into Chris Christie's speech before Mitt Romney was even mentioned. I believe it was Rachel Maddow who said it was over 1800 words into a 2600 word speech before Mitt Romney's name was even mentioned. As fleeting of a mention as it was.
For those tuning in randomly, it would appear as though the party had just nominated Chris Christie for President. Not only did Barack Obama get to the endorsement of our candidate quickly and effortlessly, making it all part of one overall theme of competing visions and priorities for the nation, but he did so while still making a name for himself in the process. Obama came across as idealistic, likeable and most importantly Presidential.
Which is exactly the target Chris Christie missed. On top of drawing attention away from Mitt Romney, Christie managed to hog the spot light for himself, undermine the entire theme of Ann Romney's "humanizing" speech and perfectly represent the ugly, red faced rage of the modern GOP to any curious independent voters who may have tuned in.
In fairness I am
not very thrilled about the prospect of Bill Clinton San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro being Obama's Keynote Speaker when the campaigns motto all year has been "Forward." We really ought to be putting the next generation of leaders forward. That said if any Democrat had ever given a speech like Christie's it would be seen as a mutiny against the party and reported as such.
Chris Christie's should be reported no differently.
*Note: Thanks to Economides in the comments for pointing out my misunderstanding of the DNC schedule.