Acela Corridor Pundits Don’t Like Chris Christie’s Style, Will The Rest Of America Agree?

Once again, reporters and pundits are arguing that Chris Christie's "New Jersey style" won't play well on the stump. I'm not so sure they're right.

Chris Christie Victory Speech 2013

Chris Christie was in Belmar, New Jersey and, as has happened before, he had a classic Chris Christie confrontation with a heckler:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has told a heckler critical of his handling of Superstorm Sandy recovery to “Sit down and shut up” on the second anniversary of the storm.

A man began heckling Christie about the pace of storm recovery and interrupted the governor’s speech Wednesday in Belmar on several occasions.

After trying to brush the man off, Christie yelled back the man didn’t know what he was talking about and was just showing off for the news cameras.

When heckler Jim Keady continued, Christie told him: “Sit down and shut up.”

Keady founded a group called Finish The Job, which is critical of the pace of rebuilding assistance in New Jersey.

Here’s the video:

This morning, a panel on Morning Joe, normally a place that’s pretty friendly to Christie, reacted this way:

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, meanwhile, made these observations:

Now back to our regular feature: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) yells at someone who disgrees with him.

In case you missed our last episode, Christie was yelling at a nurse who didn’t have Ebola because she didn’t want to live in a tent. Before that it was, what? Probably Rand Paul. Before that, a teacher. A few people back, some dude on the Jersey Shore. In New Jersey, residents set their watches when they hear a Christie bellow.

The latest iteration came Wednesday as Christie prepared to talk about the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.

Christie has several advantages in this confrontation. First, he has a lot of fans in the audience and a couple of beefy dudes at his sides. But most importantly, he has a microphone, making it very hard to hear precisely what the gentleman with the sign is saying. (That his back is to the camera doesn’t help.)

We know what the protester is mad about, since he had the foresight to face the sign backward. He is angry about the pace of restoration following the storm. We also know that at one point he tells Christie to do his job, because Christie says, “You do yours, too.” And he apparently asked Chris Christie to dinner? Christie: “There’s about a thousand things I’ll do tonight. Going to dinner with you is about 1,001.” (Christie likes this joke; he smiles a bit afterward.)


Anyway. Stay tuned for the next episode of Chris Christie yells at someone who disgrees with him, in which Christie yells at a tiny little puppy.

Bump’s comments are obviously tongue in cheek, but I think they betray something that has been underlying much of the commentary that we’ve seen from reporters and political analysts to Chris Christie ever since he burst into national prominence after winning election in 2009. He’s took aggressive for anyone outside New Jersey, we’re told. His “style” will not work on the stump in a place like Iowa or New Hampshire, they say. He’s a thug, a bully, etc. etc. It’s an observation that has come up every time one of these videos has become public, and it’s inevitable that there will be some reporter or pundit for some media outlet that will say it. Chris Christie, they tell us, may have a style that New Jersey residents love but that would not play well on the stump in states like Iowa or New Hampshire, or in the other states that will be important to winning the Republican nomination in 2016. Having grown up in New Jersey I will readily admit that New Jerseyans are definitely a different breed of people than you’ll find in other parts of the country, certainly in parts of the South where people often tend to be more genteel than residents of the Tri-State area. I’ve noticed the contrast more this past year as I’ve traveled frequently between Virginia and New Jersey dealing with family matters and noticed that, although the people are different, the atmosphere isn’t all that different than it was when I was growing up. As just one example, when I arrived in New Jersey after my Dad passed away in the dark in the middle of pouring rain and hesitated for a second while making a turn at a green light after getting off the Turnpike, I was greeted with a honking horn and, after the turn, a car that passed me as the driver displayed the One Finger Salute that seems to be a required traffic signal around here. That’s when I knew I was back home.

I can understand why political observers who are used to more genteel and careful politicians might think that something like this might not play very well outside the Garden State, but as I said after a similar incident one year ago, I tend to disagree:

While some may dismiss him as too pugnacious and outspoken, it’s also possible that voters, especially voters in Republican primary contests, could also see this quite differently. They could see it as a sign of leadership, which is quite honestly something that has been sadly lacking in recent Presidential candidates, especially on the Republican side. Say what you will about them, but neither Mitt Romney not John McCain managed to come across as particularly strong leaders during their respective campaigns. As for President Obama, he managed to project an image of leadership during his campaigns in 2008 and 2012, but his time in office has often been marked by what even sympathetic observers have described as a kind of detachment that results in things like budget negotiations on Capitol Hill spinning out of control because of Presidential non-involvement. Indeed, even his signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, was largely the result of Capitol Hill negotiation rather than the kind of Oval Office leadership that Presidents like LBJ and Reagan displayed during their Presidency. Christie, arguably, would have the advantage of both a campaign style that evokes leadership and a record that demonstrates it, thanks to things like the role he took in the wake of Sandy and the manner in which he’s worked with a Democratic legislature to push through much needed reforms to state government

Notwithstanding the fact that he could have the backing of many big money Republican donors and bundlers, especially if Jeb Bush doesn’t run, Christie Presidential run would not be easy by any measure. In many respects he stands in opposition to the hard core base of the Republican Party in ways that even Mitt Romney did not, and that is likely to cause problems in early states like Iowa and South Carolina. The Bridgegate scandal, while it still doesn’t seem like it is going to touch Christie personally, has done a lot to undercut the image that had been developed around him in the years since he first took office and which led to his overwhelming re-election win last year. And, perhaps, more importantly, he’s likely not to be the only Governor with a sold record that gets into the race. Out of everything, though, the one thing that strikes me as being far less of a problem than the pundits in the Acela Corridor make it out to be is his personality and his willingness to take on guys like this heckler. I’d suggest in fact that such a style is something that many voters are likely to find refreshing even if they aren’t inclined to support him for other reasons.

What puzzles me to some extent is why some political observers don’t seem to recognize that, and instead assume that his “style” will be a negative for him in a national race. Part of the reason, as I said, is that they’ve never really encountered a politician like him and the conventional wisdom says that someone with a style like this wouldn’t play well nationally. It’s for similar reasons, I think, that you also see them dismiss a guy like former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, who has a similar bombastic style, as a serious candidate should he choose to run. It’s an attitude, I’d suggest, that is explained largely by the insularity of the reporter/pundit class. Since they likely don’t know people like Christie, or people who like guys who are outspoken in that matter, they assume that regular Americans would be turned off by it. I suspect that they could be proven wrong if Christie does run, and that we’ll find that the Governor’s “New Jersey style” is something that does indeed play well outside the Garden State. I’m not suggesting that Christie will definitely succeed in a Presidential bid, as I said there are many other factors that suggest otherwise, but if he falls short, it won’t be because he speaks his mind like this.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. DMan says:

    It’s his style more than his substance that got him this far. It plays to his advantage that the media doesn’t talk about his substance or record as much as his “style”. I imagine that would continue to be an advantage for him at the national level.

  2. wr says:

    These same pundits used to fawn all over Christie for this “style.” If they’ve started to turn on him, maybe it’s because he’s stopped just shouting at teachers and starting shouting at New Jersey homeowners who are wondering why, two years after Sandy, Christie has only dispersed 25% of the Federal money that came into the state… after shutting down an increasingly necessary tunnel so he could steal that money in order to keep taxes low on his rich buddies.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Agree. This idea that Christie’s style won’t play elsewhere is even more vacuous than most conventional wisdom political punditry. And there are more substantive reasons to dislike him. But he is going to have to be careful, if he does it to a sympathetic target it’ll bite him. School teachers are villains to the Tea Party. To a general election crowd, maybe not so much.

  4. stonetools says:

    I think Christie will get his chance, but like every one else, I’m skeptical he will play well in the South and Midwest. If the rest of the GOP field wasn’t such a clown car, he wouldn’t be considered, but the Republicans have to consider all possibilities.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    I’m more interested in the failure of the Republican economic agenda in New Jersey, than the fat man’s style.
    Tax cuts…stiffing pension funds…sweetheart deals to cronies…all leading to huge budget shortfalls.
    The Republican economic theory keeps failing…and guys like Christie keep hoping you examine their style and not their substance. OTB seems willing to oblige.

  6. CSK says:


    The Tea Party hates Christie’s guts. He hugged Obama, you know,which is sure proof of Progressive Liberal Socialist Commie inclinations.

  7. beth says:

    There was a columnist at the Chicago Tribune (John Kass maybe) who once wrote about how reporters would sometimes bait Rich Daley into yelling just because it was fun, they knew exactly what would set him off and it made for great tv/photos. Daley’s temperment reminds me a lot of Christie’s. I wonder if reporters signing on for the long presidential campaign slog would pull the same thing.

  8. humanoid.panda says:

    In fact, Acela corridor pundits view him much more favorably that the average American:

  9. John425 says:

    MSM memo to all media pundits: ” Christie is a Republican. Don’t forget to bash him in your daily reports.”

  10. Grewgills says:

    Yelling at people isn’t leadership it’s bullying. He is more suited to a gig as yet another shouting head than as a leader.

  11. grumpy realist says:

    That reminds me of the following quote, from Terry Pratchett:

    Unfortunately, like many people who are instinctively bad at something, the Archchancellor prided himself on how good at it he was. Ridcully was to management what King Herrod was to the Bethlehem Playgroup Association. His mental approach to it could be visualized as a sort of business flowchart with, at the top, a circle entitled ‘Me, who does the telling’ and, connected below it by a line, a large circle entitled ‘Everyone else.’
    Until now this had worked quite well, because, although Ridcully was an impossible manager, the University was impossible to manage and so everything worked seamlessly.

  12. John425 says:

    @Grewgills: Yeah, but it turns out that the heckler is something of a nut job with wacky posts on HuffPo.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    Pot, meet Kettle.

  14. John425 says:

    @C. Clavin: The Republican economic theory keeps failing? Memo to Cliff-it is Obama’s wacky economic theories that have put us in an economic sh*t hole. You gotta quit smokin’ that stuff, Cliffie.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    Explain to me more about that economic $hithole.
    Is it the one with record corporate profits and a Dow more than double what Republicans left in their wake?
    Is it the one with two months of GDP growth bigger than any time since 2003?
    Is it the one with 58 straight months of Private Sector job growth?

    What problems we do have…and there are plenty…can be traced directly back to Republican policies and actions.

    You never told us what brand of diaper you wear, bed-wetter?

  16. Moosebreath says:


    “Memo to Cliff-it is Obama’s wacky economic theories that have put us in an economic sh*t hole.”

    As opposed to the policies the Republicans advocate, such as austerity and zero budget deficits in recessions, which have created double and triple dip recessions throughout the rest of the world. The US has weathered the 2008 Great Recession far better than any other major industrialized democracy.

    This should be mentioned every time a Republican complains about how Obama has killed the American economy, and if the Media were one-tenth as liberal as the Republicans insist it is, it would be.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    Maybe you could explain to the class how it is exactly that the Republican economic agenda has failed in Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Jersey?

    I asked Florack…but he ran away.

  18. steve q says:

    John is right–obama’s economic policies are so unbelievably bad that they caused the economy to crash 2 years before he was sworn in! that is like magically bad! unheard-of bad!

  19. Mr. Prosser says:

    @grumpy realist: A further comparison of Ridcully and Christie which may explain Bridgegate: “[H]e never reads any paperwork placed on his desk, reasoning that he’ll find out about anything really important when the shouting starts.”

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @steve q: You laugh, but you forget about the time machine he used to plant the birth records in Honolulu. He really is Kenyan, but from the Kenya of the 24-1/2th century. You may think he’s calm and confident about how things will work out. But it’s really that he knows.

  21. Tyrell says:

    I have seen lots of old films and photos, as well as read books about Teddy Roosevelt, a fighter and certainly a tough talker. Roosevelt, considering the whole picture and his vision, was the greatest president of the 20th century. He was one of the few presidents who personally led a military assault at San Juan Hill in routing the Spanish. Andrew Jackson personally led a ragtag army at New Orleans in one of the most brilliant victories in history. The point is that Americans love a tough fighter. If there was one knock on Carter it was that he acted too soft and reserved. I voted for him twice and was sorely upset when he lost to Reagan. Carter was a good, honest man, and a good Sunday School teacher.
    “In 1814 we took a little trip along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp” (Johnny Horton’s best hit)

  22. MarkedMan says:

    Doug’s right of course. There is a sizable group that likes this sort of thing, as witnessed by the fans of Rush and Bill when they start shouting ‘the libruls’ down and cutting off their mikes. Is it more sizable than the group that finds it demeaning and embarrassing when their leader goes off on some schoolteacher? Doug says yes but I’m pretty sure it is no. And once it is pointed out that Christie only does this to people he considers beneath him? Or that the guy with his finger on the nuclear trigger has real trouble controlling himself?

  23. bill says:

    @Grewgills: “bullying” is the new thing i guess, meaningless as it’s way overplayed but still a good way to try to smear someone for having guts.

  24. Grewgills says:

    How exactly does it require guts to shout down a random constituent when you have body guards and a microphone? If that’s your definition of having guts (which I am perhaps wrongly conflating with bravery) then it could use some work.

  25. John425 says:

    @C. Clavin: Cliffie, Cliffie, Cliffie: 58 months of What? You STILL smokin’ that stuff? Factor the unemployed who have given up and the part-time jobs that are counted as “employment” and you have one of the pockets in the sh*thole Obama is stirring.

  26. John425 says:

    @Grewgills: oh, you mean like the President does when heckled by Code Pink? Agents “escort” them out, don’t they? Or perhaps you prefer the disruptions in a university auditorium when leftists shout down a conservative or libertarian speaker and come close to assaulting them?

  27. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @John425: Personally, I agree with you on the employed and underemployed issue. And, infact, so does@C. Clavin: (please read his comment more closely). Where I have the problem is that your team don’t got a dog in that fight and the dog it’s got don’t hunt.

    If you have any Republicans who have greater wisdom that “the market knows what to do [except on drug policy, pornography, prostitution, gambling, shall I go on?],” please let me know. At least Tyrell has and; you seem to have nuthin’.

  28. Grewgills says:

    Have I ever referred to heckling or having hecklers removed as either brave or indicative or leadership? No, I have not. If Obama had tried to shout down hecklers and told them to shut up or yelled that they were idiots or some such, like Christie has done on many an occasion, I would criticize him for it. As it stands you’ve got nothing.

  29. Robin Cohen says:

    Hopefully the rest of the country has seen enough of this clown to want nothing further to do with him. His arrogance, questionable ethics and favoritism for loyal cronies make him utterly unsuitable for a higher political office. New Jersey deserves better; so does the country.

  30. Kylopod says:

    Some years ago I wrote a post describing something I called the Macho Right, which I defined as the tendency of some Republicans to view their supposed conservatism as an expression of raw manliness. It’s become increasingly clear to me that this tendency is seen the most among Republicans with a reputation as moderates. Figures like Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed to put on this tough-guy act as a way of compensating for their lack of any real right-wing cred. Chris Christie falls in that tradition. (Not that he’s a true moderate, but it’s the perception that counts.) And there is most definitely a breed of conservative pundits who fall for this game every time, seeing the tough-talk as the ultimate conservative virtue. After all, what is more conservative than putting sissy leftists in their place? Isn’t that why Saint Ronnie is the greatest president since sliced Coolidge? Didn’t he just huff and puff and the Soviet Union fell down? If Christie can shout down a heckler, ISIS must be really trembling in their boots. They’d probably just say “uncle” (or whatever the Arabic equivalent) the second Christie puts his hands on that Bible, because no effete, arugula-eating terrorist could put up with that.

  31. Tyrell says:

    @Grewgills: I have attended some political events and speeches in which they handed out cards that you could write down questions or comments on. That is one way to give people a voice. Another is to allow a question and answer period at the end. This Cready may have had some legitimate points and issues, but he destroyed his standing and credibility with the manner in which he disrupted and interfered with the rights of others to hear a speaker. No one has the right to do that. Some of the other misguided networks decided to give this man some unneeded publicity by interviewing him. This is simply rewarding boorish, childish behavior. Of course some of the so-called “news” network “commentators” jumped all over Christie in unending harangues. I guarantee you if someone interrupted their broadcasts they would pitch a fit !!
    Many still remember Harry Truman : “give ’em h___ Harry !”. That is the kind of leaders we need today. Not some political correct milktoast who is afraid he might offend someone. And that is mainly what we have today.

  32. gVOR08 says:

    @Tyrell: I don’t recall that Truman shouted down constituents.

  33. C. Clavin says:

    So you got nothing….you could have just said that.

  34. Nikki says:

    @Tyrell: The term is milquetoast.

    International leaders will not put up with Christie’s bullshit. Obama is a statesman. It’s why the world prefers Obama to Bush. You should perhaps learn to recognize a statesman when you see one. I know that’s difficult for Republican voters because, God knows, that party hasn’t put one forward as a presidential candidate in decades.

    Also, Truman was a Democrat.