Christie On 2012 Republican Presidential Ticket?

His small government, shoot-from-the-hip style could win over Independents

He just doesn’t fit the part.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie doesn’t look like or talk like any of our past half dozen presidents. But that has not stopped the chatter about Chris Christie running for the Republican nomination.

Since TV marketing took over campaigns, presidents from Carter to Obama have been svelte and attractive. And although Governor Christie is far from being ugly and is losing weight, he would still be our biggest president since Teddy Roosevelt.

Twenty-four hour cable news has also forced modern candidates for president to communicate through focus-group sound bites, flowery speeches and talking-point interviews. That is not Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor is confrontational, blunt and likes to shoot from the hip while using words like “pissed” and “crap.” Think Harry Truman uncensored.

Christie is the anti-Obama and may be just what the Republican Party has been searching for as the electorate tires of cool eloquence and longs for decisive action. [SIGNUP]

Action is something that Christie has not shied away from.

In less than nine months, he has pushed a trim $29.4 billion budget through the Democratic-controlled legislature, cutting $9 billion or 25 percent from the previous year. The budget came complete with a reform initiative that outlined “a tool kit” for local New Jersey governments to become more efficient in an effort to keep the state’s record-high property taxes under control. He has boldly taken on the state’s teachers’ union, demanding teachers take a one-year pay freeze and begin contributing something to their generous state pensions and health benefits. When the union balked, Christie called on New Jersey voters to send a message by defeating local school budgets at the polls. Voters responded by rejecting 54 percent of the school spending plans — the most since 1976 — giving Christie a strong mandate to push through his reforms.

The state’s unions unleashed a barrage of ads attacking Christie for his cuts. Instead of backing down, Christie went on the offensive and became a You Tube sensation for dressing down newspaper reporters at press conferences, roundtable guests on morning TV, and union plants at town hall meetings.

All of this has made Christie the new name on the Republican short list.

Party elders are scared to death that Sarah Palin’s Fox News, Tea Party celebrity will sweep her to the nomination. But the Tea Party crowd is almost as enthralled with Christie’s small government and lower taxes narrative as they are with Palin’s God and guns narrative. And Independents, crucial to a win in 2012, like Christie much more than Palin. In Fact, Christie polls better in New Jersey than Barack Obama. New Jersey hasn’t gone for a Republican since 1988.

The elders have never warmed up to Mitt Romney. The robotic Mormon is even less appealing in a 2012 election when Obamacare will come under fierce Republican attack. Before there was national Obamacare there was Massachusetts Romneycare.

None of the other expected Republican contenders have been able to expand past their fan base (Gingrich and Huckabee) or generate much excitement (Pawlenty and Jindal).

That has left the Republicans looking for a savior. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, South Dakota Senator John Thune, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and even former Florida Governor Jeb Bush have all spent time at the top of the savior list. But none have the “walk the walk” small government appeal that Christie has.

It is true that Christie wouldn’t complete even one term as governor, if nominated. But who would be able to attack him for a lack of experience? Palin? Obama? Christie was also the attorney general of New Jersey for seven years before running for governor.

Conservatives might be a little wary of Christie’s past. He wasn’t always pro-life or pro-gun, but he is saying all the right things now. And his small government credentials are so great conservatives seem willing to forgive what they see as past indiscretions.

This country has a tradition of voting in the exact opposite when we don’t like the outcome of the last election: The down-home Jimmy Carter was a reaction to Richard Nixon; Obama was a reaction to the tongue-tied cowboy George W. Bush. If the economy doesn’t turn around, the electorate may want “pissed” over cool, hip-shooting over a teleprompter, and husky over athletically slim.

In short, we may be ready for some Harry Truman and Teddy Roosevelt; we may be ready for the anti-Obama.

Christie for President? You didn’t hear it here first. But I may be the first to say that this is a very real possibility and not just early election chatter. And as long as Christie doesn’t deny it, and doesn’t make any huge mistakes, the possible could soon turn into the probable very soon.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Monday and Thursday. See his previous columns here. To watch his video commentaries, go to