Governor Chris Christie wasn’t in New Jersey a whole lot last year, but when he was, he could be found in the inner city.
Most of Christie’s public events last year involved the state’s most diverse populations. The trips to Camden, Newark and Trenton were ways to highlight his efforts at education and public safety reform. But they also served as soft-focused rehabilitation tour for Christie in the aftermath of the Bridgegate scandal, which broke wide open one year ago last week. The events, with minsters, recovery drug addicts and impoverished children, were redemptive in tone and spirit. Rarely did Christie announce news, or take questions from the media.
What the events did do was create made-for-YouTube content. His social media team in the governor’s office cut and edited clips from his visits to schools, drug addiction centers and churches. Those clips were then compiled into a new video where Christie is surrounded by children, almost all of whom are African American, Latino and Asian.
The video — which is intended to be a trailer teasing Christie’s State of the State speech this afternoon — was released by the governor’s office at 11 pm last night, hours after it became apparent that twice-failed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will make another attempt at the White House. Last month, Jeb Bush surprised Team Christie by jumping into the race.
Both Romney and Bush are problems for Christie. They occupy much of the GOP demographic that Christie planned to win over as a Republican candidate — the northeastern-based, fiscally-minded Wall Street money of the GOP establishment.
Christie was silent on the status of his possible presidential run while vacationing with his family in the Bahamas over Christmas. Then he sent his media handlers working overtime dealing with last week’s Dallas Cowboys controversy, which was both real and meaningless.
Now, he’s on the verge of a presidential run. He has reportedly hired a finance chairman for the campaign. And I’m told he is already holding weekly phone calls with campaign bundlers and scheduling meetings with donors in New York, South Carolina, Massachusetts and Connecticut. He and Romney plan to meet soon to hash over that potential awkwardness, considering Christie was Romney’s top surrogate in 2012. And then Christie is expected to begin the long process of running, which would involve formally creating a committee.
But today’s video could just as well serve as the announcement. Entitled “Our Dreams Are The Same,” it plays images as Christie speaks a single passage from his second inaugural address in 2014 — the very first speech he gave after Bridgegate.
“The ways we divide each other by race, by class, by ethnicity, by wealth, and yes, by political party, is neither permanent nor necessary. You see our dreams are the same: a good job, a great education for our children, safe streets in our neighborhood, and core values which give lives real meaning.
The governor is shown hugging African Americans — a little girl, an older woman, and New Jersey NAACP President Richard T. Smith. He chats with Asian children at the diner and the boardwalk, he shakes hands with the quarterback of Camden High, and he listens to a crying woman at a shelter.
Those dreams are not unique to any one group in our state. And while government has a role in ensuring the opportunity to accomplish these dreams we’ve now learned that we have an even bigger role to play as individual citizens. We have to be willing to play outside the red or blue boxes that the media pundits put us in. We have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us.
Christie is shown with many of the state’s most prominent Democrats: Congressman Donald Norcross, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, Union City Mayor Brian Stack, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Camden Mayor Dana Redd (twice). One of the schools he is shown visiting, KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, was founded by George Norcross, the Democratic power broker who has partnered with Christie on issues in Camden.
We have to be willing to personally reach out a helping hand to a neighbor or a friend suffering from drug addiciton or depression or the dignity stripping loss of a job.
Here, he is referencing his major policy victory of 2014, reforming laws on bail and drug crime. And then he talks about the superstorm that made him a superstar, Sandy.
New Jersey came together as one community when it mattered most, and now we must stay together, people of every background and belief, the government and our people, to help our fellow citizens reach for their dreams.
Today’s State of the State address is at 2 pm in the state’s Assembly chambers. National coverage is expected.