New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is saying it loud and proud: He’s no vanilla politician.
Christie, who is considering running for president in 2016 but has fallen to the back of the pack of the emerging GOP field, sent out a slew of tweets on Thursday trying to hammer home the message that he’ll always tell it like it is, even if the truth hurts.
“And this is me. What you see is what you get,” he wrote. In another: “Bc like my mom always said: always be yourself, that way u don’t have to try to remember who u pretended to be yday.” Also, “With me you’re going to get what you see…” and “…being ‘vanilla’ just isn’t me.”
The tweets and accompanying video footage referred to the governor’s remarks at his town hall meeting earlier this week in Old Bridge, N.J., where a teacher suggested the governor tone down his at-times brash style. She pointed out that Christie once called a student an “idiot” and another time told a constituent to “shut up.”
Christie, who has been holding weekly town halls in the Garden State, told the woman that while he appreciated her comments (and at times wished he used different words), people appreciate his honestly and they’ll always know where he stands.
Shortly after sending out the tweets, the governor’s office also sent out the video and transcript of the exchange with the teacher – something his administration clearly wants to highlight.
Republican strategist Dan Hazelwood said in doing so Christie is “trying to reclaim his brand which has been horribly tarnished over the past year” as he considers running for the nation’s highest office. Hazelwood added, “He’s trying to say ‘don’t forget about me’ as the race for the presidency has moved off in a different direction and everyone has forgotten about Chris Christie.”
Indeed, it’s been a rough year for the governor, who was once considered a top-tier candidate for the GOP nomination – many establishment Republicans literally begged him to run in 2012. But now, his approval ratings as governor are at an all-time low, and two big debates rage in his state – one over the budget and the other over how to solve the state’s beleaguered pension system. Nationally, this year has been rocky for him too, with controversial remarks about vaccinations, a New York Times report detailing the governor’s questionable luxury trips and as headlines about the scandal known as “Bridgegate” continuing to trickle.
David Redlawsk, the director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and political science professor at Rutgers University, said the latest tweets show that Christie is attempting to define himself the way he wants to – especially before he heads next week to the early voting state of New Hampshire (which is emerging as a do-or-die-state for the governor). There, he’ll hold two town hall meetings, speak at a college, meet with business leaders and speak at the First In The Nation Republican Leadership Summit alongside his potential 2016 competitors.
“He has a challenge in defining himself. He straddles this line as being tough, tell-it-like-it-is leader versus being perceived like a bully. Sometimes he’s on the wrong side of the line from the public’s perspective … he wants to define himself as the right side of this line,” said Redlawsk.
Christie has said he’ll make a final decision on 2016 by late spring or early summer.
The governor has dismissed criticism of his lackluster poll numbers. When radio host Laura Ingraham asked the governor about his approval ratings at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Christie shot back, “Is the election next week?”