TAMPA – The door flung open to the briefing room on the 7th floor of the Westin and in walked Gov. Chris Christie one night before his scheduled keynote to the Republican National Convention.
“I’m not going to talk about the speech before tomorrow night there,” he told New Jersey reporters above a roiling bay where sunshine alternated with storm clouds in the whiplash of Hurricane Isaac. “There will be some stuff in this you’re familiar with. Nothing I’m saying in there will come as a great shock to you.”
The speech will run about 20 minutes.
It took him 14 drafts to stick the landing, he said.
Fewer than ten people have seen it at this point, and yes, he did implement advice of 1988 GOP keynoter former Gov Tom Kean, Christie's political idol.
Romneyites didn’t ask him to change anything, he said. He handed in an early draft and they gave him the thumbs up, so he kept at it.
“I will be myself tomorrow night but I’m not going in there with any agenda,” said Christie. “My (intention) is to try to lay out for folks a vision for our party for the next four years.”
Christie heads into his speech encumbered by a story in The New York Post written by former New Jersey reporters Josh Margolin and Beth DeFalco.
The story says Christie didn’t want to be Mitt Romney’s VP choice because he doesn’t want to attach himself to a losing enterprise.
“It’s just completely false,” said the governor. “They both have my phone number and neither one ever called me. I was never offered the vice presidency so a factor in me not taking it was never thinking he could not win. Both (Margolin and DeFalco) have long-term relationships with me. If they picked up the phone” (he would have tried to persuade them not to write the story).
But most polls show Christie’s candidate, Romney, has a likeability problem. The candidate has waded through repeated critiques of his stiffness.
“Two reasons for it,” Christie acknowledged. “One is this is generally a reserved guy not used to wearing his heart on his sleeve. That makes it harder for people from a distance to feel closer to him The other is the president spent a hundred million dollars against him.”
The governor suggested Romney make himself more vulnerable to the people.
“Let the American people get to see his heart,” said Christie.
He laid out how the GOP wins this presidential election: a combination of the condition of the country, the performance of incumbent President Barack Obama, Romney’s businessman resume, and the candidate effectively communicating his humanness.
“If that happens, he wins,” said Christie. “It’s up to him to talk about those things that make him most uncomfortable.”
Christie mentioned his own Town Hall recollection of the last time he went to see his dying mother in the hospital.
“Gov. Romney needs to have a moment like that,” said Christie, nodding that he must put himself at risk and make himself appear somewhat vulnerable in a way that is authentic.
“The more genuine he is, the more there is a chance that he is going to win,” Christie said.
PolitickerNJ.com asked Christie about his perception of Romney's political intelligence.
Christie identified the difference between Romney's skill at being able negotiate the rapids of politics, but suggested the GOP presdiential candidate isn't an animal in the sense that he projects well when he works a crowd of, say, dock workers looking for votes.
"He had an all-Democratic legislature as governor, so he's got those skills," said Christie. On the stump, "He's gotten a lot better."
Since he started campaigning with VP choice U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) he's improved, said the Republican governor.
"They feed off each other," he said. "If your opponent improves you, that's a good thing."
As for a birther joke Romney made last week, Christie said the candidate probably wishes he could take that one back.
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"This is the only Tea Party group that endorsed Mitt Romney. These guys are the Vichy French of the Tea Party movement. They're the guys who say 'Viva la France,' and then you can't find them when the fighting starts. Come on." - GOP strategist Rick Shaftan, on the Independence Hall Tea Party group.- PolitickerNJ.com
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