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Spotlight: Christie's Communications Chief

Maria Comella is a two-fisted Blackberry user in charge of the governor's press staff, who also helps Christie craft and deliver his message. She definitely can handle the heat; she fielded questions about Sarah Palin's high-priced wardrobe.

Maria Comella

Title: Gov. Chris Christie’s deputy chief of staff for communications

Age: 29

Setting: At the back of the gymnasium in Hoboken Catholic Academy, where Christie held his first "town hall" to pitch a proposed constitutional amendment to cap property tax increases at 2.5 percent.

Why she’s a player: In charge of the governor’s 11-member press and communications staff, she works directly with Christie in planning and distributing his message to the public.

Tools of the trade: Two Blackberries, between which she effortlessly—and continuously—flips back and forth. “One is my old one, my personal account. People still contact me on it. Some ask me if I’m still working for Guiliani.”

Resume: Before joining Christie as communications director of his gubernatorial campaign, she was deputy director for former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani’s presidential campaign. She also worked on the McCain-Palin campaign, where she fielded press calls on Sarah Palin's expensive wardrobe, and Bush-Cheney in 2004.

Big difference between Christie and Guiliani? "There are similarities in some ways. Maybe it’s their U.S. Attorney backgrounds. Both certainly have no problems taking questions."

Her boss in public: "He makes my job really easy. I think he has a way with communicating his agenda; he has a very matter of fact way that resonates with people. I think he really excels in a situation like this where he can be extemporaneous, as opposed to a speech setting or even a press conference.”

Does he write his own speeches? “He will go off a talking point framework or an outline. It’s very rare when he has a fully written-out speech.”

Reaction to a popular YouTube video in which Christie dresses down a newspaper columnist: “I think he has a refreshing rapport with reporters. Whether or not that is extrapolated and used for different purposes is one thing, but everyone in that room would say that was typical of the governor’s easy back and forth with the press corps.”

The response from the columnist, Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger: "I take shots at him all the time, and have no problem with him firing back once in a while. My teen-aged son has watched it 50 times and loves the governor now for slapping around his dad."

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