By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Once again, an NJTV watch party brought together politicians, strategists, and NJTV editorial staff.
Right off the bat, they heard Gov. Chris Christie take a novel approach.
“Hi, my name is Chris Christie and I’d like you to take the camera off me and put it on the audience,” said Christie.
A governor sometimes accused of being all about me, staked out the ground that it’s not about him, it’s about us.
“You see, that’s why I’m running for president. Cause leadership is not about me, it’s about our country. And what we talk about tonight is not about us, it’s about the people of the audience tonight,” Christie said.
“I think in the beginning he started off really strong, the idea about the audience, and about the American people, that is what people really want to hear,” said Strategist Steve Ayscue.
The first hour included lots of personal swipes.
“His visceral response to attack people on their appearance,” said Sen. Rand Paul.
“I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me there’s plenty of subject matter right there,” said Donald Trump.
Christie tried to bring it back to the big picture, for example on Planned Parenthood.
“We’re fighting with each other up here. We agree. Let’s ask Hillary Clinton. She believes in the systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts in a way that maximizes their value for sale for profit. It is disgusting, and the American people need to hear it,” he said.
“I think the people asking these questions have to drill down on the issues and less about you made a comment about someone’s face,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.
Trump and Christie got into a disagreement about immigration, building a wall, and deporting all illegals.
“Right now we don’t have a country, we don’t have a border and we’re going to do something about it. It can be done,” said Trump.
“For 15,000 people a day to be deported every day for two years is an undertaking that almost none of us could accomplish given the current levels of funding and the current number of law enforcement officers. But here is what we need to do, and I think this is where Donald is absolutely right, what we need to do is to secure our border,” said Christie.
But Christie never attacked Trump. In fact, the two seemed chummy.
“I agree with what Chris is saying,” Trump said.
Christie’s best moment came when Trump and Carly Fiorina started tearing down each others business records.
“That is in fact precisely the way you ran your casinos, you ran up mountains of debt,” said Fiorina.
“I did great in Atlantic City. I knew when to get out. My timing was great,” said Trump.
“For the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight, who doesn’t have a job, who can’t fund his child’s education. I got to tell you the truth, they could care less about your careers, they care about theirs. Let’s starting talking about that on this stage,” said Christie.
“I think the back and forth with Trump and Fiorina was significant. I think he’s established himself as an adult on the stage. I think that we’ve said all along, if that sort of vintage Christie comes out, that will help him. He’s rending on Twitter right now, I think that is a positive thing for him,” said Strategist Bill Caruso.
“Trump is being peeled away. He’s showing that he’s bordering on a buffoon,” said Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin.
Christie was asked how he’s coping in this year of the Outsider.
“I am a Republican in New Jersey. I wake up every morning as an outsider,” he said.
And he stuck to his new theme.
“What the American people want to hire right now is somebody who believes in them, and believes that they are the ones who can fix our country. I will be the vessel through which they fix this country. It’s not about me, it’s about all of you,” Christie said.
When asked about his thoughts on the Debate, Bill Pascrell III said, “I think Carly Fiorina came into the debate as a winner before it even started because she got onto the stage. I think she acquitted herself tremendously well. In my opinion she stood out the most. And I think in terms of the Gov. Christie, cause that’s where we’re from, our homeland, he did a fine job but I think he did enough to move the bar.”
“I think he did okay. He didn’t do any big home runs and he didn’t make any big faux pas,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
“I think he’s gonna take a bump tonight. He’s going to move up. I thought he acted presidential, diplomatic,” said Assemblyman Robert Auth.
“Very impressed with Carly Fiorina. I think she was impeccably prepared. The governor did a great job,” said Congressman Leonard Lance’s State Director, Amanda Woloshen.
They all had their moments. Some, like Fiorina, probably helped themselves. The next GOP debate is in about six weeks.