Republicans bank on Christie to put storm-delayed convention back on the map

FILE: March 29, 2012: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks in Manchester, N.J.

FILE: March 29, 2012: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks in Manchester, N.J.  (AP)

Republicans are counting on New Jersey's tough-talking governor to, at least for a night, replace Tropical Storm Isaac on Americans' radars with his own brand of gusty rhetoric. 

With Chris Christie set to deliver the Republican National Convention keynote late Tuesday night, it's up to him to revive the storm-delayed affair. He'll have to be delicate -- not exactly his strong suit -- but the party is also relying on Christie to serve up a rousing speech that will demand national attention and rally voters around soon-to-be-nominee Mitt Romney. 

The GOP governor reportedly has been crafting and rehearsing a "very direct" speech for Tuesday night in Tampa that will relate "hard truths" about the state of the country. The governor has been making the rounds in Tampa already, with casual talks to various delegations in advance of his keynote address. 

Storm or no storm, there is little doubt that the no-nonsense Christie can be direct. A bigger question among Republicans is whether what works in New Jersey can be employed to the same effect in making the case for the party's presidential candidate. 

John Brabender, a longtime strategist for former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, expects Christie will come out swinging. 

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"He's got two speeds -- turbo and super turbo," Brabender told FoxNews.com on Monday night. "He doesn't have a modulated speed." 

Brabender also said Christie, Romney and the rest of the Republican Party know it's the governor's job to "get people fired up." 

"He's our cheerleader," Brabender continued. "And he won't be shy about making the case that Barack Obama didn't make the decisions he needed to. This will be a pay-per-view event." 

The convention is in need of a blockbuster opening day, and night, after the storm tracking toward the Gulf Coast delayed proceedings by a day. Several top-shelf speakers are on deck before Christie, including Ann Romney and Santorum himself, as the party looks to energize delegates -- and viewers -- around their nominee. Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are arriving in Tampa Tuesday, as delegates prepare to formally nominate the former Massachusetts governor. 

Romney is looking for a pop out of convention week. He's been running on a studious economic message for years but remains locked in a tight race against President Obama despite a wave of dim economic reports this summer. 

The keynote address is a chance for the party's chosen surrogate to help make that case for Romney -- not to mention a chance for the 49-year-old Christie to make an impression on the national stage and perhaps cultivate his future political ambitions. 

On the nearly empty convention floor Monday afternoon, brothers Mark and Alan Berger, New Jersey doctors and honorary delegates, discussed Christie, a lawmaker whom they respect and have followed closely for years. 

They're familiar with Christie's stinging one-liners, like when the governor told Jersey residents such as themselves last year to "get the hell off the beach" before Hurricane Irene arrived. 

"People accuse him of being mean, but he's just blunt," Mark Berger said. "He says what he means." 

For those who might not "get" Christie's brash, sometimes thin-skinned, always in-your-face approach, Berger pointed out that a certain amount of fight comes with the turf -- being the first Republican to win a statewide election in New Jersey in 12 years. 

Alan Berger argued that Christie is well received when he talks outside the state and that he is always acutely aware of his audience, recalling the governor's "real American exceptionalism speech" last year at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. 

"I think Christie will be good," Alan Berger said. "But you never know."