Dave Begley and I went to see Chris Christie in Council Bluffs, Iowa today. Dave’s reports have been excellent, so I will let him take the lead role. Here, though, is a summary of my impressions.
Christie was excellent, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been watching the debates. He presented strong opening remarks and then answered questions for more than an hour. His answers were forceful, intelligent, and solidly conservative. As importantly, I believe they were honest. Christie isn’t into pandering, as far as I can tell.
I didn’t agree with all of Christie’s substantive comments, but I will settle for 90 percent concurrence if I think a candidate is sincere. The New Jersey man met that standard today.
My only concern is that he seems to overestimate the possibility of working with the Democrats in Washington. The desire to cooperate is not to be hated. But when he spoke of spending enough face time with Nancy Pelosi to persuade her he’s a good person I did a double-take. Governor, Pelosi doesn’t care a bit whether you are good person.
But this is a common misconception of governors. Washington isn’t Austin or Trenton. If elected, Christie will figure this out quickly.
That one false note notwithstanding, I believe Christie deserves serious consideration. Judged on his experience, he is as qualified for the presidency as anyone in the field and more qualified than most. Judged in terms of intellect, he is very near the top. Judged on electability, only Marco Rubio seems in his class.
No, he is not the most conservative candidate in this big field. Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and several lower tier candidates have him beat. But all things considered, I don’t see Christie as less conservative than Rubio (sponsor of amnesty legislation) or the Carly Fiorina who ran for the Senate in 2010 and who earlier had praised Hillary Clinton.
So Christie is among the candidates I want to see make it deep into the primary season.
Will he? The odds don’t look great. However, his performance today reminded me more than a little of what I saw from John McCain when I spent a day with him in New Hampshire eight years ago. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Gov. Christie will gain considerable traction in the Granite State.