The day Christie won the Virginia straw poll, Palatucci texted me the results, and I wrote back: “Holy crap. A Christie boomlet for sure.” He replied, “Nah. Just funny.” Newt Gingrich probably thought it was hilarious. This is how you do it: For at least 17 days in September and October, Christie blitzed the country, campaigning for Republican candidates. As the tour progressed, the differences between Christie, the Tea Party and the Republican establishment seemed to blur. Christie began to shave off his interesting edges in the name of party unity. He called for the repeal of “Obamacare,” a key component of which his administration was already implementing. And despite his long advocacy of campaign finance reform, Christie was mute on the subject of corporate cash flooding into the campaigns he was boosting.
I tried to catch him in mid-October, when he swung through the Philadelphia region. A little after noon, Christie addressed a catering tent full of donors in Bucks County. It was a $500-a-plate luncheon benefiting congressional candidate Mike Fitzpatrick. The donors applauded as Christie spoke of a return to “core principles”: Fitzpatrick “will stand up for his congressional district,” he said, “and he will stand against crazy spending, out-of-control debt, and even higher taxes.”
Toward the end of his 15-minute speech, Christie told the faithful that if Fitzpatrick lost, he’d know it was because they didn’t work hard enough: “I don’t wanna have to come back here.” He wagged his finger and made a stern face, and the donors roared; here he was, Mr. Angry, giving them — them! — some of the good stuff. They stood, clapping their hands raw, as Christie tumbled down from the podium, giving me and half a dozen other reporters the slip, jackknifing toward a gap in the tent.