During and after Chris Christie’s speech last night, on Twitter and on television, conventional wisdom quickly developed that he had failed, or done wrong, because he waited 17 minutes to mention Mitt Romney’s name and didn’t use his keynote to throw red meat or go after Barack Obama with a two-by-four. I don’t agree—as I write here in the New York Post this morning, I think Christie took a brilliant tack by speaking to the American people about how they’re ready to hear hard truths and are being condescended to by politicians (meaning Obama) who imagine they’re too childish and selfish to hear them. By doing so, he was appealing to the undecided voters and independents Romney needs to win in November.
Chris Wallace of Fox News went so far as to say it was the strangest keynote he had ever heard because it focused more on the speaker’s experience than on Obama’s deficiences or Romney’s virtues. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC called it “an act of political selfishness.”
There were, by common consent, two great and enduring keynotes in recent political history. The most obvious was Barack Obama’s debut speech in 2004, without which he would not have become president four years later. The other was Mario Cuomo’s 1984 “American family” speech, in which he nervily turned the U.S. government into the mother and father of us all. What does everyone remember about Obama’s? Its appeal to bipartisanship and the common American experience—we’re not red states or blue states, we’re the United States.
True, he mentioned John Kerry 14 times to Christie’s 7 mentions of Mitt Romney.
But guess how many times Mario Cuomo mentioned Walter Mondale by name?