TAMPA — The consensus around here seems to be that Chris Christie might have been Tuesday’s keynote speaker, but Ann Romney stole the show from the New Jersey governor. I agree, and will have more thoughts on Mrs. Romney’s speech later. But Christie delivered exactly what I expected, and was quite good at doing so.
Christie built on a key theme developed earlier in the night by a series of Republican governors, most of them elected since Barack Obama entered the White House. Ohio’s John Kasich, Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Nevada’s Brian Sandoval and South Carolina’s Nikki Haley talked about how they’d gotten their states’ finances on track without abandoning their conservative principles, and Christie offered maybe the most dramatic examples of that:
They said it was impossible to cut taxes in a state where taxes were raised 115 times in eight years. That it was impossible to balance a budget at the same time, with an $11 billion deficit. Three years later, we have three balanced budgets with lower taxes.
We did it.
They said it was impossible to touch the third rail of politics. To take on the public sector unions and to reform a pension and health benefit system that was headed to bankruptcy.
With bipartisan leadership we saved taxpayers $132 billion over 30 years and saved retirees their pension.
We did it.
“We did it” offered a clear contrast to the untested Obama promise from 2008, “Yes, we can,” and the examples of the kinds of tough decisions he and the other governors have made offered a clear contrast to the unfulfilled promise of the three and a half years of Obama’s presidency. What Obama has been unable to do — balance, or in most years even pass, the budget; reduce both current and future obligations on taxpayers; create better conditions for the private sector to flourish — they have done. And then they all took that thought to the next step: Mitt Romney can make it work, too.
Or, as Christie put it, “if we can do this in a blue state with a conservative Republican governor, Washington is out of excuses.”
Christie has become a YouTube legend for the zingers he’s flung, off the cuff, at vocal detractors during public events. In a setting like a national convention, that opportunity wasn’t likely to present itself, and didn’t. (A few protesters were removed much earlier Tuesday evening for trying to shout down speakers from the rafters.)
But that fame hasn’t come strictly because he has a quick wit and sharp tongue. It’s because he packs principled truth into those one-liners, and he had several such moments Tuesday night:
The delivery was a little rushed — Christie had to speed up toward the end to fit it all in before the networks cut away to local news at 11 — and it wasn’t quite the kind of performance that people will still be talking about even after Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney deliver their messages the next two evenings. But it had all the elements that remind us why Christie has become a conservative champion, and why 2012 is unlikely to be the high-water mark of his influence in the party.
– By Kyle Wingfield