Join Us On The Magical Journey That Is Chris Christie's Campaign Speech
Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie had one of those dazzling moments all politicians hope for.
At a happy hour in New Hampshire back in October, Christie spoke about drug addiction, the Huffington Post reported. It was an emotional, intimate talk, and video of it was viewed millions of times. Christie had an unplanned viral moment, just by speaking to a small group of people.
It's been noted for a long while that Christie is at his best speaking to a small crowd in casual places. He may not be pulling huge numbers in polls but when he speaks, everyone in the room listens.
We went to a Christie event on Sunday night — the night before the Iowa caucus — at Wellman's Pub in West Des Moines to see exactly what makes his speeches so affecting. And honestly, Christie was pretty moving.
What makes Christie's speeches so strong?
First of all, Christie is a natural public speaker. He looks comfortable on stage and when he talks, it feels much less staged or rehearsed.
Shelly Hughes, a caucus leader for Christie, compared his performances to Rubio's — who has to awkwardly backtrack if he loses his place in his speech. Christie, on the other hand, is malleable and keeps it flowing.
Christie appealed specifically to Iowans.
David Wheeler, 18, said:
[Christie] knows a lot more about Iowa than any of the other candidates that I've seen. He seems to know how to attract the Iowa crowd.
Christie was introduced with a sweet speech by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. When Christie started speaking, he didn't immediately jump into his own stances.
Instead, he spent a remarkable amount of time talking about Branstad and complimenting the governor's work. While not directly complimenting himself, Christie was able to show his position as a governor in a good light and in a way that the Iowans in the room could easily grasp.
Leah McIlrath, who is not a Christie supporter, said:
[Christie] had some good points to make and I liked the fact that he had Terry Branstad here too, kind of gave him a little more momentum.
Then, Christie went in for the laughs.
Christie is a funny dude. After the introduction on Branstad, Christie cracked a series of jokes that all just happened to be about his various platforms and stances.
Ben Hughes, 11 (and Shelly's son), said:
I like how [Christie] throws in a little humor sometimes.
Christie kept the room laughing for a while, getting everyone engaged and listening.
Once he had people on his side with the laughs, Christie got serious.
This wasn't in a boring “here are my stances” way. Instead, Christie got serious by again speaking about Branstad and admiring the work he does as governor. He drew the difference between governors and senators.
Christie said senators — like some of his competition on the Republican side and President Barack Obama — don't have the same kinds of good, hands-on leadership that governors do. This was an argument of reason, with specific examples to back him up.
Lauren, 29 and an undecided voter, said after the speech:
I thought [Christie] did really well. He delivered the line about being a governor and I thought it was a really strong argument.
Christie got the crowd chuckling a little to re-engage them after the seriousness of his criticism of senators, and then he launched into the heart of the speech.
He said that at a town hall in Burlington, Iowa, a man asked him what his vision was as commander in chief. The man's wife was, Christie said, in tears as the man explained that their son was going to Iraq.
The crowd at Wellman's was dead quiet, listening intently, as Christie said:
I stopped being a candidate and started being a father.
The room stayed quiet as Christie explained that being commander in chief is about taking care of people's children. He talked about how you need a strong leader who you trust. He said:
When the caucuses start, I want you to think of that mother and father.
Christie won the crowd by appealing to emotion after building a base in reason.
He had already argued using reason that governors are more effective leaders because they have hands-on experience taking care of people — as he did during Hurricane Sandy or as Branstad did during crises in Iowa.
And then he turned around and made an argument of emotion that you're voting for someone who you have to trust to take care of Americans' children.
Christie maintained that concept, continually bringing up the couple at the Burlington town hall to keep it emotionally engaging.
Meghan Jolly, an undecided voter, said:
I thought he was very eloquent; I thought he made the points very relatable.
Christie finished his speech in strength.
He stayed serious talking about the responsibilities of president, saying:
I know I'm ready; you know I'm tested.
As soon as the audience started getting restless, Christie reinvigorated the largely anti-Hillary crowd by saying he is tough enough to go against her, building up the power of his speech.
He then went back to Iowans, making them feel proud by saying that talking to them has made him a better potential president.
Christie brought back the parents from Burlington, telling the crowd to keep them in mind during the caucus and concluded:
I'm ready to be that president for you.
McIlrath, the non-Christie fan, admitted “he's a good public speaker” who started to win her over with this speech and that she “really was impressed by what he had to say.”
Christie has been making these intimate speeches across Iowa and, more densely, New Hampshire — where the next primary vote is happening after Iowa. Christie hasn't been getting much support in polls, but he has a person-by-person kind of momentum and when it hits you, it's effective.
Regardless of policies and platforms, Christie is a master class in how to give a persuasive speech.
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