EXETER, N.H. - Anyone who has ever been to a show, play, or concert knows the producers always save the best for last.
That’s why it was curious tonight when Mitt Romney, a presidential candidate, handed over the microphone to Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, to wrap up their appearance at Exeter High School.
But then Christie started to speak and it became clear it was Romney who was the warm-up act for the governor, not the other way around.
In his eloquent but proudly brash New Jersey way, Christie not only paid tribute to Romney’s leadership, but he also upbraided President Obama with a vigor even his candidate so far hasn’t mustered.
“We can no longer put up with the most pessimistic man I have ever seen in the Oval Office,” Christie bellowed to a packed gymnasium.
He accused Obama of trying to distract attention from his failed leadership by turning the American people against one another.
He singled out the class warfare he said was embodied by the Occupy Wall Street movement, some of whose supporters infiltrated the event and interrupted Romney’s opening remarks.
“He’s decided, as the most cynical reelection strategy you can ever think of, that he doesn’t care if you’re angry, he just wants to you be angry at somebody else,” Christie said of Obama.
Labeling such division “un-American,” he added: “This is a president who believes that the American pie has now grown as large as it will ever get; it’s not going to get any bigger, so what he’s telling people across America is, ‘If you aren’t satisfied with your piece of the pie, and you think the man next to you has a bigger piece,’ he says, ‘I’ve got solution for you: I’ll take part of his piece - I’ll keep most of it - and I’ll give a little bit to you, and you should be happy,’ because that’s what America is going to be under four more years of Barack Obama.”
By contrast, the governor said Romney “believes he size of the American pie is infinite, that the only thing - the only thing – that limits the size of the American pie is our work ethic, our integrity, our ingenuity, and that means American’s pie is limitless.”
At that point, the Occupy protestors started to chant, “Christie kills jobs.”
Savoring the occasion, Christie feigned insult and said, “Really?”
As the crowd egged him on, he added: “You know, something may go down tonight, but it ain’t going to be jobs, sweetheart.”
Christie boasted he has created 60,000 private sector jobs while governor, and he doubled-down on his criticism of his opponents.
“If she wasn’t so blind by her Barack Obama-induced anger, she’d know that American jobs are coming back when Mitt Romney is the next president of the United States,” he said in singling out one female protester.
Christie is a conservative darling, courted to run for president by some in the GOP establishment who questioned Romney’s commitment to their cause. Immediately after deciding against a race himself, Christie endorsed Romney.
Now there is talk of the two pairing on a ticket should Romney win the nomination, a possibility both men have not precluded.
Tonight’s speech, which occurred as Romney, his wife, Ann, and their family stood smiling behind him, didn’t just give Christie another chance to audition for the role.
It also gave Romney the chance to wrap himself in the support of someone admired by conservatives he is still trying to win over.Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.