Candidate Chris Christie will rely heavily on his charisma and self-deprecating humor to carry him back into contention in the 2016 race for president.
Christie also made it clear that, when it’s needed, he’ll rely on his sharp tongue. And sharp elbows.
While Christie has generally stayed on the high road so far, issuing policy speeches and reveling in the amiable give-and-take of town-hall-style events, he’s also started leveling barbs at some of his rivals for the Republican nomination.
With so many candidates jockeying for attention — and a seat in the first debates in August and September — the temptation to step up the negative attacks will be hard to resist and could really heat up the race.
For Christie, it’s an approach that could serve the obvious goal of tearing down competitors. But it could also draw useful contrasts that could improve his standing with grass-roots conservatives who have remained wary of his record. The bare-knuckle approach might also bolster his claim as the candidate who won’t shy away from a nasty brawl with Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Christie, who touts Ronald Reagan’s skill as a wily compromiser, has made it clear that he, like many other GOP candidates now, will not likely honor Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican.
He enters the race as a long shot, squeezed into a lineup of long shots with single-digit support among likely Republican voters tuned into the early rounds of the race. Long shots tend to be ignored in the national news unless they generate news. And one way to do that is hammer away at rivals.
“There is not a real downside because he’s so low in the polls,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican consultant who worked on U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He’s throwing around light elbows to figure where the windows are.”