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STANHOPE – Chris Christie was quiet for 15 months. But no longer.
The former governor on Sunday launched a sarcastic and biting attack on his successor, Phil Murphy, saying among other things that Murphy’s incompetence is “breathtaking.”
“He’s not from here,” Christie said of the Massachusetts-bred Murphy.
“He’s not plain spoken. He’s not a fighter.”
The occasion was the annual wild game dinner of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, a group of hunters, anglers and trappers. The menu, which fully lived up to the group’s mission, included such items as domestic wild boar, velveted pheasant in cognac and, of course, multiple variations of venison.
Christie is not a hunter, but it was clear politically speaking these were his people. So in this Republican corner of northwest New Jersey, the former gov felt right at home.
He used an anecdote to highlight what he said was Murphy’s lack of standing in the state. Christie said he recently was at Newark Liberty Airport when a man grabbed him by the shoulder and said he was doing a great job as governor. When Christie told his airport admirer that he was no longer the governor, he said the man was surprised Murphy had won.
Then came the punchline.
When I was in Trenton, Christie said, “Everybody knew who the
goddamned governor was.”
Interesting story to be sure and the crowd loved it. But what does it really tell us?
It could tell us that the guy who thought Christie was still the
governor is an imbecile.
After all, as was pointed out tonight more than once, Murphy has been governor for 15 months.
But to Christie, this was a sign of how ineffective Murphy has been – seemingly average folk do not know he’s in charge.
To buttress that point, Christie mocked Murphy’s inability to get his pet projects through a Legislature his party controls, specifically mentioning legalizing pot and a millionaire’s tax.
This was a very legitimate point. It is disconcerting to many of his supporters that Murphy has been unable to cajole lawmakers into carrying out his agenda.
Then, there’s congestion pricing, a plan by New York City and state to put a toll on vehicles entering midtown Manhattan.
Details are still evolving, but the plan may hurt New Jersey motorists. Christie suggested that any pain for New Jersey drivers could be avoided if Murphy had a better relationship with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Phil Murphy, Christie said, is more a “toastmaster,” than a governor.
But politically speaking, that’s not all bad for the GOP. Mindful of how Democratic New Jersey is, Christie said Republicans only win when Democrats screw up.
“And this guy is well on that road,” Christie said.
With that in mind, Christie urged what he correctly assumed was a GOP-leaning crowd of about 150 not to be despondent.
He said there is always hope – even for the state’s minority party. History tells him why.
Christie went back more than 40 years and talked about how Republicans were elected governor after Democrats messed up. Here was his scorecard. Tom Kean followed Brendan Byrne, Christie Whitman followed Jim Florio and he followed Jon Corzine.
There was one minor error in Christie’s history lesson. The former governor noted that Byrne enacted the state income tax and Kean then became governor.
Well, not exactly. The income tax happened in 1976 and Byrne was reelected in 1977. Kean was elected in 1981 when Byrne had completed his two terms.
But Christie was on a roll and the small details from more than four decades ago didn’t seem all that important.
Asked afterwards if he had any thoughts about the GOP candidate for governor in 2021, Christie demurred, saying that was for the party and its voters to decide.
But he expressed confidence that the Republicans have a secret – or perhaps not so secret – weapon.
“Let Murphy to continue to be Murphy,” he said.
After Sunday’s performance, it’s clear Chris Christie is going to continue to be Chris Christie.