Say this about Chris Christie, the outspoken Republican governor of New Jersey, national party keynoter and Mitt Romney surrogate: he’s not afraid to set the bar high.
In the run-up to the first debate between President Barack Obama and Romney, Christie is aiming high. The former federal prosecutor has said he expects his team’s guy to match primary season performances against Texas Gov. Rick Perry and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In fact, Christie has said he expects to wake up the next day to a “new ballgame.”
“Listen, I plead guilty to having confidence in the guy on Wednesday night,” Christie said of the first face-off, starting at 9 pm EDT. “People will look and say, `Can I see him as president?’ And that provides a great opportunity for him.”
The first debate of any presidential cycle is “especially important” for voters looking to evaluate an incumbent and challenger side by side, Christie said. As many as 60 million people are expected to watch, he said during an appearance at a state-funded health clinic in Dover.
As proof of how much of an impact debates can have, Christie cited Ronald Reagan’s famous 1980 “there you go again” line and Al Gore’s huffing and puffing in 2000 against George W. Bush. Both helped solidify voter opinion, he said, suggesting that the match-ups have proven crucial for candidates dating back to John F. Kennedy in 1960.
“The contrast between the two — how they answer questions, how they address issues and how they deal with each other — only happens in one forum, and that’s the debate forum,” said Christie, who’s set to headline a Romney fundraiser in Washington on Saturday. “If you want to turn it around, you have to perform on the big stage.”
Christie will spend the second half of the week campaigning for Republican gubernatorial hopefuls, with stops Thursday in Washington state on behalf of Rob McKenna, the following day for Rick Hill of Montana and Gov. Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota. He also plans to put in an appearance at his 12-year-old son’s hockey tournament in D.C. over the weekend.
With all of the campaigning and governing cramming his schedule, Christie said he doesn’t plan to make a decision on whether he’ll seek a second term in 2013 until after the Nov. 6 election.