January 9th, 2012

The New Hampshire Romney/Christie show—or is it the Christie/Romney show?

Yesterday I decided, New England being the small place it is, that I would go to one New Hampshire primary event.

I had a few basic criteria. The first was that it not be a breakfast meeting (not a morning person, moi). The second was that it feature more than one candidate, ex-candidate, or future candidate. That made it a no-brainer to go to the Exeter High School rally starring the unusual duo of Mitt Romney and Chris Cristie.

The place was packed, and it wasn’t just with the press or the Occupiers, although they both were there in locust-like droves (the press quieter than the Occupiers, although more numerous). In fact, there were so many regular folks there that even though I arrived way ahead of time, I ended up in an overflow room rather than the one featuring the main event. We outliers were assured that Mitt and Chris would come in to personally address our gym crowd of several hundred, and that their speeches would be piped in (the audio, not the video).

Thus I missed seeing Romney’s sons, who were present at the main event. But because I was one of the first people turned away, I had a front row stand (no chairs, no seat) immediately behind the ropes that the advance men set up to clear a little square footage where the speakers were going to stand on a wooden box (not all that different from the proverbial soapbox) and address our crowd.

The people around me seemed happy to be there but calm and willing to wait. A very civilized group; even the Occupiers were willing to bide their time, although they milled around a bit restlessly in the back of the room.

And then the stars came in. I was about three feet from Romney and Christie with a completely unobstructed view, and if I were better at working my cell phone camera I’d have gotten a ton of photos and video too. But unfortunately I am not, so the following two will have to do (and in the Romney one I unfortunately caught what was probably his single most unattractive moment):

From my perch just a few feet from each man as they spoke, I observed that they look like themselves only different. Christie, for example, (how shall I put this delicately?) is heavier than I’d previously thought, and I already knew he was heavy. But maybe anyone would look heavier next to the slender Romney.

It was Romney who was most surprising. It’s often been remarked (by me, for example, here) that Romney is a handsome man who looks pretty good for his age. But now that I’ve seen him up-close and personal I would like to correct that: he looks better than his photos, and much younger. Except for the graying temples, he could pass for a man nearly half his age.

Is it clean-living (Romney the Mormon does not smoke or drink of even ingest coffee)? I don’t know, but whatever it is if he could bottle it he would make another gazillion dollars to add to his first fortune. What’s more, in this particular venue both men eschewed jackets for more casual wear, and thus it was possible to see that Romney is in great shape—and not just great shape for a 64-year-old man, either; great shape for anyone, although of a type more suited to the occupations of outfielder or runner or even dancer than linebacker or first baseman.

But enough of the pulchritude. Although the physicality was one of the first things I noticed (call me shallow, call me frivolous), the other thing I saw in their most-standard of campaign speeches was that both men seemed genuinely relaxed and happy (not surprising for Christie; surprising to me for Romney) and Romney was very energized. How he does this—or how any of the candidates do it, for that matter—with such a punishing schedule is a mystery to me. He did not seem like a windup doll or automaton, but a flesh and blood human who meant what he said. Make of that what you will.

Christie was more hard-hitting, of course, giving the hecklers a taste of their own medicine. But perhaps the best line of the evening (for me at least) was when Ann Romney said that after their campaign for the presidency in 2008 she told Mitt that never again would she be part of a presidential run. And he reminded her that she’d said something similar about having another child after each pregnancy. So, here she was.

[NOTE: In the photos, the woman in the black boots, jeans, and red sweater is Kelly Ayotte, Republican senator from New Hampshire. The other legs with the black boots and black pants, and then the gray sweater above, belong to Ann Romney, who looked almost as good as her husband. Almost, but not quite.

Here’s some local coverage of the event, with more about the speeches themselves. It states that the crowd was approximately 1000, although I believe that may have been just in the main room. But the estimate of the number of press was 100. I’d say both estimates were low.]

28 Responses to “The New Hampshire Romney/Christie show—or is it the Christie/Romney show?”

  1. Artfldgr Says:

    Soon after becoming Massachusetts governor, Willard Mitt Romney retroactively imposed new taxes on non-residents, including Granite State citizens who work, conduct business, and/or invest in the Bay State. Romney’s higher taxes reached into New Hampshire and helped vacuum at least $95 million in marginal income back across the border.

    According to Massachusetts Department of Revenue figures, the total amount that New Hampshire taxpayers surrendered to Massachusetts grew from $213.6 million in 2002 to $248.9 million in 2006, a 16.5 percent increase.


  2. vanderleun Says:

    In the Romney photo background you can see just how broad and, well, obese Christie is. Compare his torso to that of woman right beside him. You could fit two of her into one of him.

  3. vanderleun Says:

    So that makes two shallow and frivolous people here. If it weren’t for dgr we’d have no depth at all.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Artfldgr: New Hampshire residents who work, conduct business, or invest in Massachusetts had to pay taxes there long before Mitt Romney was governor. Massachusetts was deep in the hole when he arrived. He got the state out of debt by cutting spending significantly, and by raising certain taxes (not surprisingly, he thought it politically expedient to call it “closing loopholes” or raising “fees”), including expanding the taxes owed by said New Hampshire residents.

    I have no problem with what he did when faced with a huge shortfall in his state, which was (I remind you) one of the most liberal states in the US, with an extremely liberal legislature. The initial paragraphs of the article to which you linked imply that Romney did this singlehandedly, but in fact (as we see in paragraph 6), these particular taxes were expanded by “legislation Romney signed on March 5, 2003.”

    It was the Massachusetts legislature that did this, and Romney signed the bill. If memory serves me (and I don’t have time to check this at the moment), the Massachusetts legislature at the time could have overridden his veto rather handily. However, I’m not saying he even wanted to veto this legislation (it was important to raise money, and this particular way could be accomplished without burdening the people of his own state); just that when one looks at Romney’s history in Massachusetts one must be aware of the political realities he faced in that particular state.

    The economic realities are that the state was in fiscal trouble when he arrived, and money had to be obtained for the state. Romney (and the legislature) did this through a combination of efforts that involved heavy spending cuts and some tax increases (with the aforementioned nomenclature about what to call them rather than “tax increases”). I think he kept the tax raises to a reasonable minimum and focused on the cuts as much as possible.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    vanderleun: ah, but Ayotte (the woman next to Christie) is very fit and slender herself.

    Which doesn’t make you wrong about Christie.

  6. vanderleun Says:

    Okay, you can fit three of her into one of him.

  7. vanderleun Says:

    As for the Romney perplex, wretchard today has this observation:

    “Perhaps the reluctance of voters to embrace Mitt Romney has not been because there’s anything wrong with him, but because there’s not a hint of trouble about him anywhere. He’s a fine upstanding family man who’s done well in business and wouldn’t hurt a fly unless provoked. But if one thinks about it, all the men who made America in the 1770s were nothing like Romney; they were nothing if not troublemakers.”


  8. kolnai Says:

    re: Vanderleun –

    Paraphrasing Churchill: “He has all of the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire.”

    I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s probably close to the mark.

  9. Steve Says:

    vanderlun, nothing wrong with him? Isn’t he well known for flip flopping on every major issue? Maybe that gives fiscal conservatives heart burn because they think he’ll back away from repealing Obamacare and find ways to fund the supersized federal government.

  10. foxmarks Says:

    Props to Christie for wearing his belt at his waist, not below his belly. But his pants are hemmed too high.

    Once we get to the general, we’ll “discover” that Romney is a racist. Just imagine that fit body and chiseled face in a Gestapo uniform. (I’m not saying it is true, but predicting a mode of takedown.)

  11. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Not a word about the policies or ideas put forth at the event? Well, I don’t mind because I have watched the debates, read the websites, and followed the news.

    It was interesting to get your up close and personal reportage. Much as we would prefer that it not be, it is a beauty contest of sorts. Much as we size up the entrants in a horse race, good lines, spirit and fitness matter. But so do brains. It seems to me we have, in the case of Christie, an example of the addage that we don’t care about his lack of good lines (girth) because of his spirit and brains. With Romney we may overlook his brains because of his good lines (fitness) and spirit.

    Anyway, your report is the next best to having been there. Thanks!

  12. mizpants Says:

    I think Christie has gained a good 25 lbs. since he declined to run, which inclines me to believe that he was seriously considering a run for a while and put on the gustatory brakes accordingly.
    I love Christie!

  13. BradnSA Says:

    Yeah, not a good look for Christie at all, no matter how much of a hard ass he is.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    JJ: the event was a rally. There were just some rousing speeches to fire up the troops, not very long and not informative, just fun rah-rah stuff. The link in the note at the end of my post contains a little bit of the substance of the speeches, if you’re interested in that. But it really was mostly a pep rally and a meet and greet.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: I would have thought that flip-flopping meant going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.

    Romney ran for senator (he lost) and then governor (he won) of a liberal state. When he ran he presented himself as a moderate, and when he ran he compromised and/or hedged on a number of conservative positions, but before that he’d been inactive in politics so you can’t call that flip-flopping. He governed in Massachusetts as he’d run, as a moderate Republican who made some concessions to an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and populace.

    Afterwards he espoused more conservative positions. His statement about that was that he became more conservative over time. This is not an unusual position and/or history to have—it’s one I happen to share, as did Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, and a number of luminaries.

    I don’t see this as flip-flopping. I see it as the process of political change, one I write about quite a bit. It’s true that Romney is not the most conservative candidate in the mix. But he never said he was. But he is a conservative (especially compared to Obama), and there is every reason to believe he will govern in much the same mode as he has campaigned, which is to be quite conservative but not extremely-conservative.

  16. Jim Miller Says:

    What kind of athlete does Romney look like? A quarterback, perhaps, though not a scrambler. Some shooting guards look something like him, especially if they are 3-point specialists.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Jim Miller: Romney looks like an athlete, but although his father and brother were athletic, he never really was. See this.

  18. Steve Says:

    neo, isn’t it also true that Romney defends Romneycare and says the individual mandate is a conservative position?

  19. Jim Miller Says:

    neo – Thanks for the extra info. I hadn’t thought he was an athlete, because I hadn’t heard anything about it in one of the many stories I’ve seen on him.

    I was just indulging in a hobby of mine, trying to guess the sport from the physique. With some — gymnasts, for instance — it’s easy. And I am sure you could have guessed, in about a microsecond, that my new insurance agent was a dancer. (She was with the Seagals for some years.)

    So, after you raised the question, I took a look at Romney and asked what kind of athlete would Romney be, if he were an athlete. And came up with quarterback, partly because I know he is taller than average.

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: true that Romney defends Romneycare for the liberal state of Massachusetts, and the individual mandate for states that happen to want it (such as Massachusetts), but not at the federal level. In other words, federalism.

    In addition, at the time the individual mandate was being implemented in Massachusetts, it had been touted as a conservative option by (1) Newt Gingrich; and (2) the Heritage Foundation.

    See this (there are lots of other links that deal with this, but that’s one).

  21. neo-neocon Says:

    Jim Miller: I was indulging in the same sort of speculation in my post. I’ve noticed, for example, that even within baseball, the players in each position have a tendency to resemble each other more than they resemble players in other positions. For example, shortstops are mostly smallish, wiry, and quick, while first basemen are pretty big guys ordinarily. Second baseman tend to be more like shortstops but a bit bigger, third baseman bigger still. Outfielders are not small but they have to be pretty speedy, so they’re not usually bulky. I thought “outfielder” for Romney. He reminds me a bit of Dwight Evans in that respect, for example.

    And here, through the magic of YouTube, is the telegenic Mr. Evans. Now that I look at him again, he may be a bigger guy than Romney. But I remember this catch:

  22. Parker Says:

    If I had my druthers I prefer rotund Christie to Romney, and if wishes were horses Christie would be my Romney choice for VP…. assuming Mitt is the nominee. However, wouldn’t it be nice if the head of the ticket had fire in the belly? A Palin or a Cain? I want a nominee that brings a predator drone and a flame thrower to the gun fight.

  23. Parker Says:

    “But I remember this catch:”

    I too remember that catch, it was something that only Roberto Clemente could have done in right field. (Or Willy in center.) Ah, baseball; if only we could return to the days when baseball was the national sport.

  24. CZ Says:

    With all the sports, fitness and athlete references why aren’t there any comments regarding Sumo Wrestlers?

    Governor Christie would look quite fetching wearing a silk mawashi, don’t you think?

  25. Judith L Says:

    Thank you for the first hand report, Neo. As a permanently retired campaign volunteer, I put great stock in seeing a candidate in person. There is no substitute for it.

  26. Steve Says:

    neo, how is Romneycare working out for the people of MA? From what I understand costs have escalated and services are in shorter supply. Great conservative idea! Advancing statist programs at the state level is not consistent with principles of limited government and fiscal conservatism. Again what is to recommend this twit?

  27. neo-neocon Says:

    Steve: I don’t have time to write a post on Romneycare for you. Do your own research. But the gist of it is that costs have escalated everywhere, and not because of Romneycare. See this for one analysis of the costs and benefits. There are plenty of others, including those that say “success” and those that say “failure.” The truth is that evaluating it is a complex endeavor, with pluses and minuses, and teasing out what’s due to Romneycare itself and what’s due to problems in health care and the economy in general is a difficult task.

    But people would rather give out sound bites.

  28. neo-neocon Says:

    CZ: Christie is actually too short to be a sumo wrestler.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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