The CW on Christie is pretty negative, more or less in line with my initial reaction, which is below. Some on the right, such as John Podhoretz here, are pushing back on the idea that Christie was being self-aggrandizing by not mentioning Romney enough. Back in 1984, he writes, Mario Cuomo gave what is still remembered as a terrific keynote address, in which he mentioned nominee Walter Mondale exactly zero times.
Well, that is a true fact, but it's one that doesn't excuse Christie if you think about the times and the context. In 1984, Mondale was a nominee the Democratic Party was relatively happy with. He'd been the vice president. He'd been the presumptive nominee since Carter was booted out of office. In 1981, he was like Joe Lieberman in 2001, the leader in the Democratic polls, and he never lost that lead, although Gary Hart made a pretty nice run.
I think most Democrats knew at convention time that Mondale was probably doomed in November. But the point is, nobody needed to sell convention delegates, or for that matter middle America, on Mondale's life and biography. Everybody knew it. As I said, he'd been the vice president, and a senator for many years. There was no pressing need to "humanize" him.
Instead, the pressing need in 1984 for Democrats was for someone to stand up and defend liberalism. Cuomo did that wonderfully. It all ended in electoral disaster, but that wasn't Mario's fault. He did the job that needed to be done in the moment. Also, he didn't ramble on about what he'd been up to in his state capital, as Christie did. Cuomo literally set the "key note."
Christie did not. Christie's job should have been to sell a so-far-unsmitten country on Romney. In fact, as I noted last night, all those guys should have. I don't think a one of them said anything like: You know, I met Mitt in 2003. I remember one of our very first conversations, when he said to me... You get what I'm saying? They all must know him. These people know one another.
If they didn't tell these stories, the obvious suspicion arises that they don't exist, and these people, like Massachusetts state legislators and pluralities of Americans in polls, don't like the guy very much. To me, the stink of that really hung over the place last night.
The one good thing Christie delivered was the section on bipartisanship, where he sort of rapped the knuckles of his own party. That probably came across well to moderate viewers, but I suspect it got overtaken by the larger and nastier waves that came later.
And the shared sacrifice business was very ill-advised. David Frum nailed that:
Nor was it wise to talk so much about shared sacrifices when the centerpiece of the Romney campaign is a big tax cut for upper-income earners. Argue the case for the tax cut on growth grounds, but don't generate a clip that can appear in an Obama attack ad alongside a debunking quote from the Tax Foundation.
And finally, Matt Miller had a good insight into why it was hard to be impressed by Christie if you follow this stuff closely and aren't a devout conservative. He tried to present himself as a truth-teller, but he fundamentally isn't telling the truth about our fiscal situation, because the truth requires something Republicans won't speak of or even consider:
...political courage means telling your base what it doesn’t want to hear. For Republicans, that means acknowledging the truth that taxes must rise above their historic levels as the boomers age and we double the number of people on Social Security and Medicare. You cannot qualify as a truthteller without speaking this truth. Christie fails this test. Paul Ryan fails this test. So does the rest of the GOP.
Republicans will tell only those truths that do not require abandoning the tax issue as a political club. But the idea of perennial tax cuts cannot be sustained any longer because of simple math and demographics. Once you realize this is the case, Christie’s entire truthier-than-thou tone and self-congratulatory demeanor become incredibly off-putting.
People survive bad convention speeches. Bill Clinton gave one of the worst ones ever in 1988. But if you're a Republican, Christie's future isn't your top concern. The election and the nominee are. And I'd bet my mortgage that the nominee was not happy.