Christie for President: Ecce Homo!

As Chris Christie announces a presidential candidacy nobody much wants today, there’s a fascinating assessment of his chances by Michael Barbaro of the New York Times that methodically goes through all the reasons he cannot win but then lets his flacks make this amazing argument:

At his announcement, Mr. Christie will seek a political rebirth, as he has before, by relying on his powers as a teller, and mythologizer, of his own story.

Using notes and a hand-held microphone, advisers say, he will invoke his grandmother’s arduous commute to work at the Internal Revenue Service, which required two bus rides, as he tries to relate to middle-class voters. He will depict his governorship as a noble battle to take on intractable problems and daunting crises. And he will cast himself as the rare politician willing to deliver unpleasant truths about the excesses of American life and the sacrifices required to rein them in. (His campaign slogan: “Telling it like it is.”)

Wow. From the POV of any Republicans who aren’t already enchanted by Christie–meaning most of them–this is a pretty feckless pitch. So his grandmother struggled to get to her job at the satanic IRS, the agency that deploys jack-booted thugs like Lois Lerner to persecute Tea Party activists and has evil designs on the poor li’l Koch Brothers. So he fought the unions and the welfare state in New Jersey–and is in the process of losing the fight. And so he’s on the campaign trail telling “unpleasant truths”–unpleasant especially to rank-and-file Republican voters who feel very strongly that they earned every nickel of the Social Security and Medicare benefits Christie wants to trim.

You get the impression Christie and his people think he’s going to win the presidency by the sheer force of his personality, an argument that would be a lot more convincing if his approval ratings in New Jersey–the very heart of his electability rationale–hadn’t taken a power-dive. Perhaps the sight and sound of this large man shouting at liberals–in a very large field of politicians shouting at liberals–day after day will be enough to rekindle the Christie Magic that was exaggerated in 2012 into some sort of presidential draft movement. But I’ll believe it when I see it. And indeed, for now, Christie’s Ecce Homo! (Behold! The Man! as Pilate said of Jesus Christ) message is more embarrassing than anything else.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.