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Stakes are High for Keynote Speech for Both Christie and Republican Party

8-27-12

While Gov. Chris Christie has insisted the phrase “New Jersey Comeback” will not be part of his keynote address at the Republican National Convention, Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics Director Ben Dworkin told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes Christie will definitely talk about the New Jersey experience and how he’s helped the state. Dworkin also said the speech is a huge opportunity for Christie’s political career and believes he will do well.

Dworkin said Christie won’t use cite the “New Jersey Comeback” in his speech because of the state’s 9.8 percent unemployment since it would make it too easy for Democrats to criticize. “But what the governor will probably do, is talk about the New Jersey experience he’s had and lay out a narrative about how he took on special interests, he took on intractable problems, he took on the money spent by intransigent folks in the Democratic Party and in these special interests and he made changes — tenure reform and things like that,” Dworkin said.

According to Dworkin, Christie will be speaking to two audiences Tuesday — the more than 20,000 people in the hall and the 30 to 40 million people watching the address on television. He said many who will see the speech on television will never have heard Christie speak before.

“So this is a huge opportunity for him personally as a politician,” Dworkin said. “I think he’s going to do fine. I think he gives a very good “Democrats stink and Republicans are great’ speech.”

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While Christie may tone down his address for the national audience, Dworkin said it won’t affect its success. “We’ve seen him give national speeches before at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C., at the Reagan Library,” he said. “I don’t think he needs a YouTube off the cuff moment in order to make this a successful speech.”

Past keynote speakers at political conventions have launched greater political careers. Dworkin cited Ann Richards and Barack Obama as two examples. “So I think we see an opportunity here absolutely for Christie personally, as well as for the Republican Party,” he said. “This is the chance to define what being a Republican is for the next decade.”

A successful keynote address could boost Christie when he returns to the Garden State, according to Dworkin. “Every time he has gotten lots of positive national attention he has done better politically here,” he said.

Christie may come back to New Jersey with more positive poll numbers, but Dworkin pointed out that he’s also returning to a difficult situation at home.

“What we’re going to be looking at past this election come January is potentially a real shortfall in our state budget, midyear cuts to education and municipal aid. These are things that are down the road,” Dworkin said. “So it doesn’t matter how popular he’ll be this week. What matters are the decisions that have to be made moving forward.”