When the House of Representatives pondered longer than he thought proper in considering the bill for aiding Sandy’s victims, Christie placed, in less than an hour, four unanswered late-evening calls to Speaker John Boehner, calls that were, Christie says mildly, “increasingly agitated.” At last, Christie did his best imitation of Mount Vesuvius, denouncing Boehner by name. The approval-disapproval numbers for his eruption were 79-15, including 70-22 among Republicans. People may not like government, but they enjoy one operatic governor.
Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, accused Christie of a “tantrum.” Christie’s pugnacity emerges: “I want to see the next time a hurricane comes to Kentucky.” Such Sturm und Drang earned Christie a place on Time magazine’s cover — a photo making him look very like New Jersey’s Tony Soprano. Beneath the photo were two words — “The Boss.” Time told him that the reference was to New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen. Christie isn’t buying that, but neither does it bother him. “If my mother were alive,” he says, “she’d be hot. She’s the Sicilian.”
He is potentially the un-Romney of Republican presidential politics, the candidate who connects viscerally, sometimes perhaps too much so, with voters. Although he campaigned hard for Mitt Romney in 2012 and was one of the first governors to endorse him, Christie told Oprah in 2011 that Romney doesn’t connect with people. No one knows how the Republican nominating electorate of 2016 will feel about the idea of selecting a second consecutive Eastern governor from a blue state. “The presidency,” Christie says, “is the most personal vote people cast,” and he distills into two words the lesson of 2012: “Candidates matter.”
He calls the GOP’s decision, made in the run-up to 2012, to lengthen the nominating process “the stupidest thing the Republican Party ever did.” When the process is too protracted, “You wind up with a good candidate who’s damaged.” Although he understands the lacerating rigor of a nomination campaign, “I may not do it, but it won’t be for that reason.”
He heartily agrees with the axiom that the most “likable” candidate usually wins presidential elections, and he understands that combativeness that might serve a governor might be inappropriate for a president, whom people want cloaked in a particular dignity, and who is in everyone’s living room every night. Christie says, “The image of me nationally is a little skewed.” What he calls his “yelling and screaming” is very limited and always tactical. He thinks even voters choosing a president “want someone who has that club in his golf bag.”