Courtesy of CBS, here’s video of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s very funny appearance on David Letterman last night, featuring a bit of high-calorie prop comedy:
This highlights an interesting feature of Christie’s appeal: the combative persona blended with self-deprecating good humor. People really respond to that combination, which is one reason comedian/pundits like Letterman or Jon Stewart get so much mileage out of their easily-removed clown costumes. Political success is all about building a connection with people, particularly in the modern era. That’s why the “likability” numbers for candidates often trump every other consideration. A lively sense of humor, combined with the willingness to enjoy a joke at your own expense, is one way (although not the only way) to build that sort of connection. Maybe Americans shouldn’t be so eager to vote for the guy they’d rather have a beer with, but that’s the way it is.
Those who write Christie completely off for the 2016 race are underestimating how good he is at connecting with voters, and not just in humorous ways. Will Republican voters in the next primary be willing to forget about his eleventh-hour embrace of Obama, and sundry transgressions against the conservative platform, if they see him holding bipartisan – perhaps even ideologically hostile – audiences in the palm of his hand? The other hand, not the one holding the donut.