In 2004, a young state senator and United States Senate candidate from Illinois named Barack Obama stepped up to the podium at the Democratic National Convention in Boston and delivered a stirring keynote address that catapulted him from a place of relative obscurity to one of national prominence.
His party was on its way to nominating an unpopular, elitist, flip-flopping politician in Massachusetts, Sen. John Kerry. Joining Kerry on the ticket was a young-gun then Sen. John Edwards (whose life has taken some interesting turns in the past eight years).
Kerry was quickly defined by President George W. Bush’s team and never regained his footing in the race; he lost to the incumbent.
Four years later, then Sen. Obama ran for President; he told us we were the ones we’d been waiting for, that we should we be audacious enough to hope and that there is no red and blue America, just a United States of America.
Fast forward to 2012.
The Republican Party will soon nominate an unlikable, elitist, flip-flopping former Massachusetts Governor in Mitt Romney.
And Romney has of course tabbed his party’s ultimate young-gun in Rep. Paul Ryan for the vice presidential slot.
With Romney’s highly unfavorable ratings and recent decision to fundamentally alter his campaign’s strategy by choosing Ryan, he seems likely to be defeated by the unpopular, but likable President Obama.
Many pundits have written about the parallels between the 2004 presidential election and this one.
Conservatives ought to hope they’re wrong about most of the parallels except for one that’s rarely discussed.
Conservative firebrand and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address at this year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
And Christie is a man with a compelling story to tell.
Most importantly to Republicans, he has balanced two budgets after inheriting an $11 billion deficit.
He has made tough choices on big issues like state pension reform, and has done this with the wind blowing firmly in his face – New Jersey’s state legislature is 60 percent Democratic.
He currently holds a 57 percent approval rating in the deeply blue state of New Jersey (Obama carried it 57 percent to 42 percent in 2008 and the last time it went Republican in a Presidential election was 1988).
Gov. Christie touts these accomplishments with great effectiveness by simply being honest with the people.
He explained the dire straits of his state’s fiscal house and said in essence, “we have to do something about this.”
Christie treats the American people like adults and doesn’t soft-pedal much of anything, which can be a political blessing and a curse; however, with the irresponsible turn our country’s government has taken in recent years, it is beginning to look more and more appealing.
Big donors and many prominent Republicans were basically on their hands and knees begging Christie to challenge Romney for the Republican nomination for president last fall and continued to into the winter.
But the timing wasn’t right for Christie in 2012.
He certainly has some issues to deal with, the largest being his weight.
Christie is obese and in the age of television and with our country’s recent emphasis on health, it’s unlikely we’ll ever have another William Howard Taft in office (you know, the guy who got stuck in the bathtub).
He needs to shed some weight before he reaches the pinnacle of American politics.
And though it can often be one of his greatest assets, Christie has a penchant for being overly blunt.
Telling residents to, “get the hell off the beach” last summer when severe weather was heading his state’s way isn’t exactly presidential.
He can also come off as a bit of a bully, firing back a little too hard and personally at protest-tinged questions at his town halls.
And there’s the infamous moment on New Jersey public television when he got hot under the collar after a woman asked him why he doesn’t send his children to public schools.
An irritated Christie responded by telling the woman that it’s none of her business where he sends his children to school.
Finally, a combination of the two big issues occurred earlier this summer when Christie fired back at a heckler on the Jersey shore, with ice-cream cone in hand by saying, “You’re a real big shot; you’re a real big shot shooting your mouth off.”
These troubles aside, if Christie strides to the podium later this month and tells his story in New Jersey in a compelling way, conservatives will be drooling the way liberals were in 2004 after their keynoter delivered his speech.
Democrats saw Obama as the future of their party, and they were right.
With their party in disarray, Republicans can only hope the same happens with Christie after his address.
For a party that’s lacking leadership and compromise, it would be a wonderful thing if they embraced a leader who uses those two words to explain his very success.