In a Cedar Rapids restaurant, they come for Christie, and politely consider Romney

Chris Christie on YouTube. (GovChristie)
Tweet Share on Facebook Share on Tumblr Print

Ben Jacobs

Follow: feed

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—Chris Christie said in April that he didn’t think he was ready to be president. However, many of the Iowans in the standing-room only crowd at the Spring House (signature dish: “broasted chicken”) disagreed.

Faye Remington, an elderly woman from Marion, wearing heavy makeup and an Iowa Hawkeyes jacket, said she wished the New Jersey governor had gotten into the race, and that she admired that he “says it the way it the way it is and doesn’t dance around.”

This wasn’t precisely the desired effect of Christie’s surrogacy for Mitt Romney in Iowa, from the perspective of the Romney campaign. But Remington, like other attendees I talked to, did say she was probably willing to settle for Romney in the interests of finding “anyone who could beat Obama.”

Christie, who has embraced his YouTube-borne national image as a “loudmouth guy from New Jersey,” played it for all it was worth for this Iowa crowd, which only knew the outlines of the background he drew on for his self-caricature: He had “stood up against the labor unions,” said an attendee named Laura Mead, and was willing to “call a spade a spade.”

MORE ON CAPITAL

ADVERTISEMENT

At the appearance in Cedar Rapids, which bills itself as “the city of five seasons” (the fifth one is time to enjoy the traditional four), Christie explained appreciated the value of loyalty, which was why he had traveled out there for Romney, who “was a resource and a friend at a time when no one knew who I was.” (Romney, who had made an appearance with Christie that morning, was on his way to New Hampshire at the time of the Cedar Rapids event.)

He remembered that Romney went out to campaign for him and “put his name next to mine at a time, at a time when his name was the most important thing he has, his reputation, and he put it on the line for me. And I’m thrilled here to put my reputation on the line for you.”

If his emphasis on loyalty (to say nothing of Christie’s Gandolfini-plus physique) wasn’t enough to put the crowd in mind of "The Sopranos," his pitch for Romney seemed to be more in line with a candidate for godfather than president. He emphasized that Romney would “get things done.” He said Romney wouldn’t “have a supercomnittee doin’ nothin’ in Washington DC.“ And Christie said that, unlike President Obama, “you will never hear Mitt Romney whine and moan.”

Instead, Romney will look after your “children and grandchildren” and make sure they can have “the life he had.”

He dismissed Romney’s extraordinary evolution on substantive issues—the Romney who was governor of liberal Massachusetts bears little resemblance to the man now seeking the G.O.P. presidential nomination—and people who wanted to “study every position paper and old video that Mitt Romney has ever written.”

What mattered to Christie was Romney’s heart: “He believes in this country [and] he believes in all of you.”

The governor described the White House’s economic policy as “America’s pie can never grow larger than today. If you are discontent with the size of the pie and want to get more, the only solution is for the government to come and take some of his pie, keep it for themselves, and give you a little bit. That’s the only way.”

In contrast to this “pessimistic” description, Christie characterized Mitt Romney as believing that “the American pie is infinite,” but that “government is too big and has to get smaller . . .  . Regulation is too big has to get smaller.”

By the end of his stump speech, Christie seemed to have had the effect of imposing a polite hush on the crowd. He broke the tension, and the short-lived silence, by telling them there was “no reason to go all library.”

Greg Winterowd, a veterinarian from Cedar Rapids, said he was impressed by Christie and was “probably for Romney.”

Anna Sobers, also of Cedar Rapids, said Romney was her second choice. After Chris Christie.

Ben Jacobs is a frequent contributor to the Boston Globe. He will be filing Iowa dispatches for Capital throughout the week.