The Obama vs. Romney election is a month away, but a hot topic at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Forum on Thursday was this: Would Gov. Chris Christie make a legitimate candidate for president in four or eight years?
James Carville and Mary Matalin, two of the country's best known political analysts, suggested Christie's New Jersey brashness and his unique set of political skills would make him a candidate to be taken seriously.
"The magic of Christie isn't that you don't know what he's going to say," said Matalin, who has worked as a strategist for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. "You just don't know how he's going to say it. He is authentic to his principles and his courage is unique. He is true to himself."
The husband and wife team of political experts - Carville the Democrat and Matalin the Republican - addressed an audience of more than 400 business leaders at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Forum 2012 held at the Pines Manor in Edison on Sept. 27. It was the debut of the annual Forum series which will bring national names to New Jersey for an evening designed to inform, entertain and inspire audience members.
Carville, the Democrat, said Christie may be exactly what the Republican party needs if Romney loses the election next month. In 2016, "They will be looking for something different, something unpredictable," said Carville, who worked as a strategist for President Bill Clinton. Christie would "certainly come into the (2016) race as someone to take seriously," he added.
Not so fast, said Matalin. Christie will have to wait, Matalin said, because she expects Gov. Mitt Romney will win next month and serve two terms as president. "Christie will continue to be a thought leader and policy leader," Matalin said. "He's colorful and it's lovely how he conveys his courage and conviction."
Romney has his work cut out for him as he trails President Barack Obama in the polls, Carville said. Carville used a football metaphor to describe the gap. "Romney is down by five points at the end of the third quarter," he said. "He has got to throw more and blitz more. He has got to do things that are dangerous in politics."
On the other hand, Obama should not get overconfident, he added. "Obama doesn't have a lot of respect for Romney's political skills, and that's dangerous."
Romney is behind, "but not as far behind as Reagan was at this point," Matalin said. "It's true that Romney needs to step it up and I think he can do that in the debates." She suggested that Romney attack Obama on the economy and on health care reform, which she characterized as "unsustainable government."
There's a sentiment that Romney is hard to relate to, that you wouldn't want to have a beer with him, Matalin added. "Listen," she said, "I don't want to have a beer with my plumber. I just want him to fix the plumbing. I don't need to like you. I want you to fix the problems."
News coverage of Forum 2012:
* Carville and Matalin agree: Christie 'to be taken seriously' in 2016 (PolitickerNJ)
For more photos by Russ DeSantis Photography & Video, click here.