You know there's buzz about you when you can deliver an eloquent, and captivating, political speech, deny you have any presidential ambitions during said speech, and the only thing anyone wants to write about afterwords is the subsequent non-existent presidential buzz.
That's exactly what happened to GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today.
In a speech in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, Christie didn't do himself any favors in trying to quell conservative excitement over his supposed non-existent ambitions to run for president in 2012. Then again, about the only thing he could do to curb such enthusiasm is to become a mute. Or in Christie's words, "commit suicide":
"Listen, I threatened to commit suicide, I did, I said, ‘what can I do short of suicide to convince people I’m not running?’” Christie said. “Apparently, I actually have to commit suicide to convince people I’m not running.”
He continued, “You have to feel in your heart and in your mind that you’re ready for the presidency. And there are lots of people who will run just because the opportunity presents itself.
“That’s not a reason to be president of the United States,” Christie said. “You have to believe in your heart and in your soul and in your mind that you are ready and I don’t believe that about myself right now. So that’s why I said I won’t run and I can’t imagine that changing.”
The speech, which covered everything from American exceptionalism to problems with Social Security, blended serious political discussion with moments of appropriate comedy:
But Christie also had a message for the GOP candidates he supported during the 2010 campaign:
"If the people who I campaigned for don’t stand up and do the right thing, the next time they’ll see me in their district [it will be] with my arm around their primary opponent," Christie said. "Because you asked me to put my reputation on the line for you based on a promise that you were going to deal with these hard issues."
The speech seemingly sent thrills up many people's legs, who considered it an excellent oration by a popular local politician who dominated on a national stage. Even Politico, which graded the speech, gave it an "A":
Substance: Moving the nation toward "fiscal sanity," reforming pensions and cutting into politically-sensitive "entitlement programs," using New Jersey's last year as a model.
Presentation: With notes but no text, threaded humor smoothly into a serious speech.
Conservative red meat: He studiously avoided sounding partisan, including repeated references to his cross-river "soulmate," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Audience reaction: In a word, he killed.
Obama bash: "What I was looking for [in Obama's State of the Union] was for my president to challenge me. ... And it was a disappointment that he didn’t. "
OVERALL GRADE: A Not only achieved what he wanted to with a call to bipartisan, budget-cutting, pension reform and education improvements, but he again got to leave them wanting more by saying for the 100th time that he's not running in 2012. Is he believable?
Politico's news report also gave the speech high marks:
Chris Christie took Washington by storm today in his first national speech, with a call for details behind entitlement reform and concrete choices now to save a nation "teetering on the edge of disaster" from years of fiscal debts that are coming due.
The free-wheeling, hour-long speech was delivered by Christie without prepared text and with a natural ease at the podium, and it is sure to skyrocket the buzz about the New Jersey first-term governor's presidential prospects, which he continues to insist are nonexistent for 2012.
"We're on a path to ruin," Christie said before the rapt crowd, mocking people who he said are afraid to touch proverbial third rails of politics.
National Review posted a poll on its website asking readers what they think, in light of Christie's speech, the governor should do. Not surprisingly, they want him to run in 2012:
That's not surprising considering the substance, which Politico captured in some of the speech's best quotes (more of which can be found here):
- "What I was looking for was for my president [in the State of the Union] to stand up and challenge me and say to me and everybody else in the country and say 'now's the time to fix things and I'm going to lead you there.' And it was disappointing that he didn't do that." [Watch video of this comment on The Blaze.]
- "If you don't deal with Social Security and Medicaid, then you're participating in a failing proposition."
- "Some people say I'm too combative, some people say I'm too much of a fighter. ... I'm fighting now because now is when it matters the most."
- “We have to fix Medicaid because it’s not only bankrupting the federal government, it’s bankrupting every state government”
- "When we say entitlement programs we should be specific. You’re gonna have to raise the retirement age for social security. Whoo hoo! I said it and I’m still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpet. We have to reform medicare… once again lightining didn’t strike.”
Over at Townhall, Greg Hengler reacted to the speech by saying, "Democrats: Be afraid. Be very afraid."
That's especially chilling considering Christie's "not running." But if he keeps giving speeches like this, he might need to be put on suicide watch.