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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Morning After His Big Speech, Christie Mentions Romney More


TAMPA, Fla. - Some listeners thought Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey buried the lead in his keynote speech on Tuesday night at the Republican convention - only mentioning Mitt Romney toward the end of his remarks.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Christie gave much higher prominence to Mr. Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, in a personal account of how Mr. Romney and his wife, Ann, visited the Christies' New Jersey home in October and won his early endorsement.

Describing Mr. Romney talking to his two youngest children, then 11 and 8, about their hockey and gymnastics pursuits in an unaffected manner, Mr. Christie recalled thinking, “This is a real guy.”

“I hope that that Mitt Romney comes across on Thursday night,” when he accepts his party's nomination in the most important speech of his life, Mr. Christie said. “It's going to be a challenge.”

He seemed to acknowledge the perception of Mr. Romney's personal remoteness and the Republican ticket's challenge to improve on surveys showing only a minority of voters express favorable opinions of him.

Mr. Christie spoke to delegates from Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, part of a series of breakfast speeches that the Republican National Committee has organized this week for party V.I.P.'s to fire up the delegations of battleground states.

“You guys can make a difference,” Mr. Christie said. “Let's be real, it's not happening in New Jersey,” a solidly blue state.

He said the pressure of speaking on such a nakedly exposed stage as the Tampa Bay Times Forum was not to be underestimated.

“Believe me, it all looks easy until you get up there and you're standing up there and there's 20,000 people standing there and lots of millions of people on TV, and it's not as easy as it looks,” he said. “I hope that Mitt Romney comes across. I suspect he will.”

Mr. Christie described how Mr. Romney had asked to drop by his home last year to seek his support. The two couples, including Mr. Christie's wife, Mary Pat, sat on a back patio talking about policy and politics, when the younger Christie son, Patrick, zoomed up on Rollerblades. Mr. Romney engaged him in a lengthy talk about his hockey career.

When the Christies' youngest child, Bridget, saw her brother getting so much attention, Mr. Christie said, “she decided it was time to make her own move.” She performed a series of “cartwheels, somersaults and handstands in front of the next president of the United States.” Mr. Romney walked her over to the grass away from the hard patio and chit-chatted at length about her gymnastics classes.

It was a telling moment, Mr. Christie said. “When you look at Mitt Romney's resume, of course he checks all the boxes on being qualified to be president,” he said.

“You also need to know when you're voting for president, does that person have the kind of heart that I trust sitting behind that desk?

“I would apply to most politicians the child test. If they pass that test you know they've lived their lives in a way the family is central. And if their family is central to them, our family is going to matter to them too.”

He said that when Mr. Romney asked “What do I need to do to make you part of the team?” he replied: “Nothing. I'm in.”

“He turned to Ann and said, ‘Wow, Christmas in October.'”

Being the businessman he is, Mr. Romney moved “to close the deal,” Mr. Christie said, and got his commitment to endorse him three days later in New Hampshire.