TAMPA, FL - In his RNC keynote address Tuesday night, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie emphasized the need for executive leadership and honesty in Washington and urged Americans to embrace Mitt Romney in November's presidential election. He said that today's challenges require leaders who will prefer to be respected than loved, and that those leaders are Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Though he seemed to pull some potential punches on the president (he never even uttered the word "Obama"), Christie slammed the incumbent's "absentee leadership" and spelled out the conflicting visions of the Republican and Democratic parties:
Let’s be clear with the American people tonight. Here’s what we believe as Republicans and what they believe as Democrats. We believe in telling hard working families the truth about our country’s fiscal realities. Telling them what they already know – the math of federal spending doesn’t add up. With $5 trillion in debt added over the last four years, we have no other option but to make the hard choices, cut federal spending and fundamentally reduce the size of government. They believe that the American people don’t want to hear the truth about the extent of our fiscal difficulties and need to be coddled by big government. They believe the American people are content to live the lie with them.
We believe in telling seniors the truth about our overburdened entitlements. We know seniors not only want these programs to survive, but they just as badly want them secured for their grandchildren. Seniors are not selfish. They believe seniors will always put themselves ahead of their grandchildren. So they prey on their vulnerabilities and scare them with misinformation for the cynical purpose of winning the next election. Their plan: whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff, as long as they are behind the wheel of power.
We believe that the majority of teachers in America know our system must be reformed to put students first so that America can compete. Teachers don’t teach to become rich or famous. They teach because they love children. We believe that we should honor and reward the good ones while doing what’s best for our nation’s future – demanding accountability, higher standards and the best teacher in every classroom.
They believe the educational establishment will always put themselves ahead of children. That self-interest trumps common sense. They believe in pitting unions against teachers, educators against parents, and lobbyists against
children. They believe in teacher’s unions. We believe in teachers. We believe that if we tell the people the truth they will act bigger than the pettiness of Washington, D.C. We believe it's possible to forge bipartisan compromise and stand up for conservative principles. It's the power of our ideas, not of our rhetoric, that attracts people to our Party.
Christie's remarks were personal at times, and not nearly as biting as some may have anticipated from a man whose truculent YouTube confrontations have become legendary. Why? Because Christie and convention organizers recognize that persuading undecided voters is the key to victory. President Obama's policies speak for themselves. They've been a failure. His job approval is languishing in the mid-40's for a reason. It seemed to me that Christie was determined to build up Mitt Romney and the case for strong, effective leadership in Washington. He also sought to slap down the notion that America's current station is the "new normal," and that the occupant of the Oval Office can't do much to change it. That's Obama's greatest ally in this election: The notion that nobody is really responsible for this mess, that maybe no one is really capable of turning it around, and -- hey -- at least Obama's likeable. Christie punctured that mentality and beat it into the ground, building to a crescendo about a second American century. I suspect Christie's address was very effective with independents and undecideds, but it was also very well-received by this crowd in Tampa. That's the Christie sparkle. Team Romney made an excellent choice in asking the Big Gov to headline Tuesday's program.
A few additional stray thoughts from inside the hall: Mia Love and Sher Valenzuela were rockstars and set an incredible tone for the whole evening. The cavalcade of GOP Governors was impressive, but perhaps most impressive was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's decision to step all over the boisterous standing ovation that greeted him in order to keep the convention schedule on track. It's exceedingly rare for a politician to resist the urge to bask in applause. Artur Davis delighted delegates with his indictment of the man he supported into 2008. Ann Romney was beautiful and kind. Her speech was truly sensational -- pitch perfect, really -- and Mitt Romney's "surprise" appearance on stage with his bride was a nice touch. My bottom line: Christie and others were quite good, but tonight belonged to Ann Romney.
UPDATE - Here is full video of Mrs. Romney's tour de force in Tampa: