New Jersey voters never got to hear Chris Christie's most important speech this year, because it took place behind closed doors at a Westin hotel in Boston, where the governor laid out his not so veiled pitch for the party's 2016 nomination. "I'm in this business to win," he told the crowd of Republican leaders, according to an audio recording smuggled out of the room. "I don't know why you're in it."
It was pure Christie, combat bundled in cliche. Ever since he ousted Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine in 2009, he has run the Garden State with combustible passion, blunt talk and the kind of bipartisan dealmaking that no one seems to do anymore. He doesn't claim to be an ideas man or a visionary. He's a workhorse with a temper and a tongue, the guy who loves his mother and gets it done.
All year long, Christie has presented this character he has created as the savior for the Grand Old Party. At the Boston meeting in August, he said ideologues had begun to edge out the winners in Ronald Reagan's Big Tent. (He meant you, Tea Party, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin.) They acted like college professors, just spouting ideas. "College professors are fine, I guess," he joked, before driving it home. "If we don't win, we don't govern. And if we don't govern, all we do is shout into the wind."
Christie then went out and won, and he won big. In a blue state, he got 61% of the vote for governor on Nov. 5. "If we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey," Christie thundered, "maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., should tune in their TVs right now, see how it's done."