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January 17, 2014

Five myths about Chris Christie

(Continued)

4. His shtick doesn't play well outside New Jersey.

No one in Iowa will vote for Tony Soprano for president.

So goes the conventional wisdom about how a foul-mouthed tough guy from Jersey just doesn't have the right personality to appeal to Middle American voters. But my experience watching Christie beyond New Jersey tells the opposite story.

After announcing in October 2011 that he wasn't running for president, Christie endorsed Mitt Romney and then flew to New Hampshire to become Romney's most high-profile surrogate. At their first rally together, two female hecklers started yelling about Christie killing jobs. The crowd roared, knowing what was coming. "Something may go down tonight," Christie said, "but it ain't going to be jobs, sweetheart." The comment shocked some pundits who thought it was sexist. But I was in the crowd, and that line got more applause than any other. Several Republicans told me afterward that they wished Christie had been running instead of Romney.

The following summer at the Republican convention, Christie spoke at a breakfast for the North Carolina GOP. In persuading the crowd to work hard for Romney, Christie didn't get folksy - he got Jersey. "Now I don't want to get all nasty this early in the morning," he said. But "you don't want an angry Chris Christie coming back to North Carolina." He then referred to the Mafia: If North Carolina doesn't go Romney, he said, "we're going to give you some Jersey-style treatment. You don't want that now." So many North Carolinians got up from their scrambled eggs to mob Christie at the door on his way out that the rest of the breakfast program had to be delayed.

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