Chris Christie is usually a man of many colors.
Throughout his governorship he’s given his red speeches, moving the spirits of Tea Partiers with promises of tax caps and teacher tenure reform; his green speeches, where he accepts man-made climate change; his black speeches, where he elevates calling people “idiots” and “morons” to a Jersey art form and his blue speeches, where he calls right-wing critics of his Muslim and gay court appointments “the crazies.” Recently, he’s used a bland speech where he promises to “walk the boulevard of compromise” to get things done with Democrats.
Pinning a political philosophy to Governor Christie is a bit like trying to pin Jell-O to a wall. That may be the secret to how a Republican won New Jersey where, as the governor points out, there are 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Yet those many colors of the Governor were gone tonight and replaced with one white hot light: Tell the truth about the tough choices America has to make.
There were no morsels of red meat to make the base frothy. There were no cheap applause lines. Some wondered if he would go the full-Snooki and simply crack wise about the president all night long. That would have made for a roof-raising riot -- fun but meaningless. This speech, thankfully, was more serious.
Tonight, Chris Christie introduced America to his mother, who by his account was a no-nonsense woman who made others face the true facts surrounding them, be they gentle or grim. He then channeled her, reminding America that now is the time for facing facts and making tough choices.
The life lesson he imparted to America is that it is “better to be respected than loved.” Respect will come when we stop patronizing people by purchasing their affection. Instead, ignore their affection and tell them that sacrifice and work will bring them to better places than gifts and entitlements.
To the Republican faithful, that message is nothing short of brilliant. The very aesthetic of the conservative base is that they have done for themselves; that they in fact did build what they have, contrary to what the President thinks. They contrast themselves against those they see as the takers, not the makers.
This is familiar territory for Governor Christie. These are the themes he ran on as a candidate. He spoke of using these life lessons involving facing facts and making tough choices to fix problems in New Jersey where he inherited Jon Corzine’s mess and turned in three balanced budgets by lowering taxes. The contrast with the President is there too -- Barack Obama inherited a mess that continues.
He spoke of making the tough choices against the Unions. In New Jersey and across America, his willingness to go after the public sector has turned Christie into a Conservative folk hero and his mention tonight of taking them on garnered him his most vigorous applause.
The message of contrast then continued by highlighting how different conservative fiscal ideas are from liberal ones: Republicans tell the truth about the fiscal reality, Democrats avoid it by coddling the takers. Republicans tell seniors the truth about Medicare to secure it for their grandchildren; Democrats scare them with lies to make them not think about it. Republicans favor teachers, while Democrats favor teachers’ unions.
The colorful coat of Chris Christie was gone tonight. Instead he asked American to put on their work clothes. Hope hasn’t changed anything. It’s time to do the job and the job requires an honest look at reality, and an unwillingness to refuse to acknowledge the situation we find ourselves in.
This speech was about the economy and nothing else. There was no abortion. There was no foreign policy. There were no gay rights. This speech was about the listener’s wallet. It was a speech likely to garner few enemies and many friends, as everyone cares for their wallet.
Every convention keynote speech has a text (vote for Romney) and a sub-text (I go next). The successful speech will kick off the campaign without outshining the candidate.
This speech was a bit short on mentions of the names Romney and Ryan. There were enough mentions of them to be respectful, but they were buried very deep in the speech. This speech was more of a success for Governor Christie than the candidates.
Chris Christie shines awfully bright, and the usually reserved Mitt Romney has a quite a challenge ahead of himself to make his party forget they just heard from a man many consider the brightest color on the Republican Presidential palate.
Mitt Romney’s best political course -- continue Chris Christie’s message of honest economy and make it his own.
Tommy De Seno writes on national issues at Ricochet.com and on New Jersey politics at More Monmouth Musings. He is an occasional guest contributor to FoxNews.com.