Yesterday I detailed the small, quiet setting of Lindsey Graham’s town hall meeting this past Saturday in New Hampshire. My next stop on Saturday was Chris Christie’s town hall, which turned out to be the opposite of Mr. Graham’s.
Like Mr. Graham’s town hall, I arrived about 30 minutes early. Unlike that one, however, I didn’t get to sit anywhere near the front, though admittedly I was only a couple of feet away from Mr. Christie.
Governor Christie’s event took place at Ross A. Lurgio Middle School Gym in Bedford. The venue was noticably larger than the Graham event and when I got to the school, around 200 people were already there:
Over 400 would be there by 5:00, when the event began. The crowd was drastically more energetic than the laid back atmosphere of Senator Graham’s event. And, like Graham, I was pleasantly surprised when Christie came in on time, but actually a minute early.
The theme that Mr. Christie stuck to was: one, “telling it like it is,” two, relatability, and three, his experience as an executive. As he spoke, Mr. Christie stood in the center of the gym, where two stools had been set up. One for him, and one for Governor Paul LePage of Maine.
Governor Christie spoke for about twenty minutes before turning to the crowd for questions. He and Mr. LePage went back and forth, picking different people to ask questions.
There were some great strengths that Mr. Christie possessed during the town hall. He came off as knowledgeable and as authentic. He also seemed in control and was focused on decimating the record of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Christie also didn’t just stand around in the center of the gym. He walked around a bit, going up to people sitting in the lower levels of the bleachers.
He had two major problems, however, and they were actually the same one, just expressed in different ways: time. While authentic and knowledgeable, Mr. Christie’s answers easily took 10 minutes each. Then, after these long answers, Mr. LePage would talk for another 10.
Another slight problem: I’m pretty certain that a basketball game was taking place on the other side of the walled off section of the gym. The following video that I shot, for example, shows Mr. Christie obliterating President Obama and his disastrous policies on Guantanamo Bay. It also has the sound of buzzers and whistles in the background.
Regardless, this video has a great line in which Governor Christie calls Barack Obama a “petulant child:”
By far, Christie’s greatest moment of the night when answering a question about defending the United States and what set him apart from any other candidates. Mr. Christie’s answer was three fold: first, he was the U.S attorney for New Jersey, starting in 2001. He argues that he has years of experience going after terrorists; no other candidate in the field can say the same.
Second, he argued that he had the executive experience to make a tough call that others have not had, again, going back to his theme of tough choices and his gubernatorial record.
Third, and most personal, is that he experienced the fear that so many families went through on September 11, 2001. He recounted the day.
Mr. Christie said that he was not able to reach his wife, who worked near the World Trade Center, for over 5 hours that day. He feared the worst, painstakingly contemplating how to explain to his children that their mother had been killed in a terror attack.
Right before going to pick his children up, however, Christie received the “best phone call of his life:” his wife, telling him that she was alive. Even so, Christie lost friends that day. His point was that, while other candidates might tell you that they know your pain and fear, only he has lived through it and knows it.
Here Governor Christie summarizes his story, to which he received thunderous applause:
Unlike Graham’s town hall, or frankly any other gathering I went to, there was a clear energy at Christie’s event. If Mr. Graham’s felt like a campaign running out of steam, Mr. Christie’s felt like one that was picking up speed.
And speaking of someone who has seemed to, at times, both gained speed and run out of steam, the next town hall that I went to was that of Jeb Bush.