So my spouse got invited to join the happy crowds at Chris Christie's re-election victory celebration. Blah. But I'm enough of a history buff that the lure of seeing him in person is enough so that when my nice guy husband asked if I'd like to go, I said sure.
Here are the rules I had to abide by:
1) No picture with my cell phone. This is not for privacy - it's because my cell phone has a protector with Obama's rising sun logo on it! That wouldn't go over big.
2) I don't have to clap, but I have to swear on a stack of campaign fliers that there will no, as in zero, as in not even a meow, of a cat-call. And absolutely no booing. (boo.)
So I print off our tickets we got in the email, and off we go to Asbury Park for Christie's victory celebration and my trip to the lion' den, known as the Asbury Park Convention Center.
Why Asbury Park? Well, because Asbury Park is for Christie what the aircraft carrier was for President Bush. In the immortal words of VP Biden, listening to the Gov these days is like hearing a verb, a noun and Hurricane Sandy. With the sound of the waves hitting the beach as we approach the building, I can see Governor Hugs is going to be all Sandy, all the time.
In front of the building there is already a line about 100 people long for the main entrance. (There is another entrance to an upper room , but it's for the Gov's party, cabinet members, and the important people.) My husband sees someone he knows, and the guy is shocked we have to wait in line. So he tows us along with him, and we by-pass the line completely, with he gets saluted by the State Police. Who was that guy???
Inside, there are two main rooms. The first has a huge TV screen, and a podium on a platform in the middle of the room. The other room is larger, and has a band, popcorn and drink stands lining the walls (like the Board Walk!), and a growing crowd. Wow, are all these people this white? Between the popcorn and the people, the only non-white thing in the room is the diet coke.
Wait - I think I see a black person!! ..... No, false alarm. Just one of the band members.
I overhear one pinstriped guy ask his friend, "where are all the lobbyists?" His friend responds "what, you think they'd be down here with us?" A man who truly understands how things work.
In the center of the room is a model of the NJ State House. Look closely, and you'll see a statue of Gov. Christie in the front, slightly out of scale. Did I say slightly? His head comes up to about the second floor. Pretty much matches the Republican view of scale, actually.
I look around the room. One thing is really clear: every woman in the room has bigger jewelry than me. Is it too shallow of me to notice that? It's certainly a huge generalization for me to think this is a reflection on our priorities. But I think it anyway. Humph.
Stop, stop! - I see a black guy! ..... No, another false alarm. A photographer, not an invitee. I should have brought my sunglasses. Not used to all this whiteness. I go to Democratic meetings, and I am surrounded by America. I attend this Republican party, and I am surrounded by the 1950s.
Stray comment: Did you see/read "Game Change"? One of Christie's communications staff members is Maria Comella, the woman Sarah Palin fired.
It's getting close to the time the polls close. We go into the smaller hall. My spouse and I line up right in front of the podium. We're about 15 feet away from the podium.
Off to the side, under the enormous TV screen, is a camera and a guy talking into it. Then I notice that the guy speaking to the camera, is the same guy as the one on the TV. Someone tells me it's Jake Tapper. Who the heck is he? Same someone tells me he's a CNN reporter. Really? CNN is still around? Who knew. Fascinating the things you learn at a political party.
Okay, so I was wrong. I had guessed that the polls would close at 8pm and Christie would be declared the winner by a minute after 8pm. I was off by about 58 seconds. CNN did a countdown to closing, and announced the winner at 2 seconds after 8. It was kind of weird though. Not many people in the podium hall yet, since word is out Christie won't be speaking until 10pm. Everyone is in the big hall with the food and music, so there was hardly a ripple when the media declared Christie the winner. Strange.
It's about 9:15. The crowd is building up around the platform with the podium. A woman pushes past saying "Governor coming through". Governor Tom Kean trails her, and they surge through the crowd. Kean leaned over me to shake hands with someone behind me. I ask my spouse who the woman was, and he says it was the lieutenant governor. He knows her name. I know her the same way everyone else in NJ knows her - as Kim What's Her Name.
Cucinnelli is winning Virginia. People see it on the tv and applaud. I hear various comments around me that McAuliffe is a crook. I whisper to my husband that dKos says McAuliffe will win. I smile.
Now it's time for the Gov to speak. Here's what I haven't heard any pundit talking about: how bizarre the whole thing was. When most pols have their election celebration, you see the stage filled with family, their running mates, major political figures, etc. I've seen scads of these celebrations on TV and they pretty much all follow that formula: here's my dad, here's the local congressman, let's all give them a hand. But no, not this time, not with Chris Christie. The grandstand is lined with (lily white) young people to give energy to what people see on TV. Extending out from the grandstand area was a long raised walkway, maybe 30 feet long, like a model's catwalk. At the end of the elevated walkway was the small round area with the podium.
First the governor's kids came out and each said a word or two from the podium. I wondered who would introduce Christie. I don't have long to find out - the only person who is up to Christie's standards, the only one who truly appreciates the genius that is Governor Christie. Why, Christie himself, of course. They start a film that is mainly Christie talking about all things Christie. Did he just get reelected as governor of New Jersey? I think he mentioned New Jersey, but only briefly. I think he was elected governor of Sandy, because I heard more about Sandy in the past, than I heard about New Jersey's future.
After the film Christie, followed by his wife, appeared on the grandstand and walked down the length of the cat walk to stand center stage at the podium. This is not even close to a governor's re-election celebration. It is obviously Christie's acceptance speech for the Republican nomination, even to the visuals which reminded me of Clinton's progression down the hall to the podium in 2008.
Another shallow comment: has anyone else noticed that strange, too-too much grin that Mary Pat Christie pastes on her face all the time? Even when Christie himself is serious, she is standing there with that wide, forced grin on her face. Irritating and fakey.
Wooot! If you're watching CNN, I was just on the crowd shot. Oh, wait. Let me take that wooot back. Not sure I want my friends to see me here.
Governor Hugs' speech is being praised by all the pundits, but I thought it was exactly like his keynote at Romney's nomination: all about Christy, all about people hugging him, all form over substance. The only accomplishments he mentions are reforming education (read: fighting with the teachers) and reforming the pensions (read: taking away people's hard earned pensions because the state refused to fulfill their funding requirements for the last 15 years). "You can't just show up, you have to be there before". What the hell is he talking about? I'm not getting it. He mentions how he lead during Sandy. He doesn't mention how many houses have been rebuilt.
Everyone seems to love his speech. It seemed to me a classic example of "Now enough about me. Tell me what you think of me?". It was all about what a wonderful leader he is, how people can't stop hugging him.
At this point, my spouse is wishing he could have added a new rule for me: No eye rolling.
And I could have sworn Christie ran with a lieutenant governor who also got re-elected. He finally mentions Kim What's Her Name at the tail end of the speech. Not to say much about her, you understand, just that she exists. She won't say anything against him, though, because she's counting on him to resign to run for president, which will make her the governor. So she'll grit her teeth and deal.
This was my election night adventure. As we walked toward our car, with the waves echoing nothing but Sandy, Sandy, Sandy, all I can say is -
Run, Hillary, RUN !