COMMENTARY | Like many political junkies, I watched New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Keynote Address to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Though I enjoyed it, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was more about self-promotion than promoting Romney in 2012.
Most of my students, though they lean conservative in this small Georgia town, didn’t watch it either. But a History professor and Psychology professor made similar observations to me, without even knowing I was thinking the same thing.
But it isn’t just professors who wondered if we weren’t getting a dress rehearsal for Christie in 2016. Tim Skillern of Yahoo! News interviewed several voters to get their reaction to Christie as well. The title of Skillern’s article “Voters on Christie’s Address: Likable, Honest, but Lacking Romney Focus” says it all. Almost all of those interviewed also concluded that the speech was more about Christie than Romney.
John Hill wrote, “From listening to Gov. Chris Christie’s speech Tuesday night, it seemed at first to be more about him than Mitt Romney. He talked about his background and his accomplishments, which made me think that it was a more of a ‘if Romney loses this year, think of me in 2016’ speech than a real keynote address.”
Sarah Guiza added, “His words hold weight because he speaks openly and doesn’t beat around the bush or dodge questions. However, as the keynote speaker at the RNC, I feel he should have addressed more of Mitt Romney’s accomplishments rather than those of his own.”
To conduct a “Mythbuster” test of sorts, I downloaded the entire text of Christie’s speech into Microsoft Word, and did some searching. For the sake of comparison, I did the same with another recent keynote address: the one given by Barack Obama at the Fleet Center in Boston in 2004 on behalf of John Kerry.
Christie’s speech was 2,629 words, while Obama’s was 2,351 words. Both were talking about Massachusetts politicians. But there, the similarities stopped.
Obama mentioned the Democratic nominee Kerry 13 times. Christie only mentioned Romney seven times. Obama mentioned Kerry on word number 1,034. For Christie, Romney was first mentioned on word number 1,769.
Both mentioned the vice-presidential nominees (Edwards, Ryan) twice. Christie said “I” 37 times, while Obama mentioned it 25 times. Christie mentioned America 32 times while Obama only mentioned it 27 times. But Christie mentioned the word “Jersey” seven times, while Obama noted Illinois only three times. The word “God” was invoked by Obama three times (and he also mentioned the Creator from the Declaration of Independence). Christie never said God.
In Skillern’s article, Tim Bryant penned this line: “I am no more, or less, likely to vote for Mitt Romney because of Christie’s speech. Frankly, he barely mentioned Romney. Mitt was an afterthought. I am, however, more likely to vote for Christie when and if he decides to run for president.” Perhaps that was the goal all along for the New Jersey governor.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.