As His Popularity Craters, Christie Eyes Another Sharp-Elbow Job: Sports Radio Host
“Just the beginning of the humiliation.”
That was Gov. Chris Christie’s playful self-assessment of his performance on Monday singing the opening jingle as the guest host of a sports talk-radio show. In some ways, it was an unintentional summary of Mr. Christie’s current political life. Another humiliation began not long before the show started.
An hour earlier, a poll from Monmouth University found that his constituents were furious that he enjoyed a state beach all to himself during a government shutdown, with more than 80 percent of New Jersey residents saying they disapproved of his job performance. Only 15 percent approved, the lowest of any New Jersey governor since state polls were first taken. Six percent of those polled “simply used some form of profanity to express their sentiments about Christie’s beach day,” according to a news release that accompanied the poll.
About an hour into his turn behind a microphone at WFAN, a caller identified as Mike from Montclair — perhaps one of those 6 percent — lit into the governor.
“Next time you want to sit on a beach that is closed to the entire world except you, you put your fat ass in a car and go to one that’s open to all your constituents,” the caller said.
“I love getting calls from communists in Montclair,” Mr. Christie responded, adding, “You’re swearing on the air, Mike, you’re a bum.”
It was the unfiltered id of New Jersey — the brash governor seemingly free of any concern with plunging poll numbers, his eye already on his next chapter and the state’s residents at the end of their proverbial rope, grappling with disruptions caused by the first day of track repairs at Pennsylvania Station while Mr. Christie sat in an air-conditioned radio studio.
And it was the distillation of a governor with his foot more than halfway out the door: going to the beach when other state beaches were closed, openly auditioning for a new job with the radio station even though about six months are left in his current one.
As he worked his way through his first four and a half hours on the air, Mr. Christie was the same politician 61 percent of the state voted for in 2013: blunt and bombastic, thin-skinned and tough-talking, self-deprecating and aggressively defensive.
Mr. Christie joked about his photographed day at the shore, describing his beach attire (Mets shirt, Mets shorts and a hat from the 2006 National League Championship Series.) He joked about the support one employee of the radio station offered (“He’s one of the 15 percent!”) and he offered “the Jersey attitude” to his co-host Evan Roberts, who complained about not being able to pump his own gas, which is prohibited under state law.
“Here’s what the Jersey attitude is to you: Buy your damn gas in New York, then,” Mr. Christie said, going on to let loose a few profanities of his own to bring the point home.
But his act, once largely seen as endearing, has seemingly worn thin on New Jerseyans.
“Christie may have found the floor for his ratings, but it’s a level where most of his constituents now feel his time” in office has hurt the state, Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement. Now, for the first time, according to the Monmouth poll, a majority of Mr. Christie’s constituents say New Jersey is worse off as a result of his tumultuous tenure.
Indeed, the many low points of Mr. Christie’s tenure — the George Washington Bridge scandal, a failed presidential campaign that took him out of the state for more than 500 days, his failure to get a top position in the Trump administration, and an aging transportation infrastructure — have left a large majority of Mr. Christie’s constituents fuming, which occasionally spilled onto the WFAN airwaves on Monday.
“I represent the 85 percent of these people in this state who do not prefer you as governor,” said another caller, identified as John from Montclair. “I think you’ve done an awful job.”
The playful tone from Mr. Christie’s voice from his last exchange (Bobby from Westchester told the governor his only problem was that he was a Dallas Cowboys fan) quickly dissipated.
He derided John, then called Hillary Clinton a “criminal” and taunted his former opponents.
“You lost twice, John,” he said, ostensibly referring to the Democrats Mr. Christie defeated in his two campaigns for governor. “So that shows how much you matter.”
When he stuck to sports, Mr. Christie seemed studied. He lamented the state of the Knicks, calling their 2011 decision to remove Donnie Walsh as president for basketball operations their “single biggest mistake.” He argued that Tim Hardaway Jr.’s new contract with the Knicks, at $71 million, was likely to be another albatross.
But his banter with callers and Mr. Roberts over sports largely lacked the edge it had when he talked about politics.
Occasionally, there was blending of sorts. A caller identified as Al from Paramus complimented the governor’s thick skin, before joking that, should he get the job, his theme song should be “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and that the bridge scandal might make it hard to criticize scandals involving other teams, like Al’s beloved New England Patriots.
“Do I look like the kind of guy who is fearful, Al?” Mr. Christie retorted.
He claimed that he was not bothered by plummeting public opinion — “The later you get in your term, the less you care. You’re not running for re-election” — but he did show that perception was at least somewhat on his mind.
As Mr. Christie described his fantasy baseball team, The Blue Hens in Action, his co-host expressed surprise that Mr. Christie was able to juggle the demands of fantasy baseball with running the state.
“Oh, I don’t do anything,” he joked in a deadpan, monotone voice. “No no no, absolutely nothing, I’m just totally mailing it in.”
He paused, perhaps momentarily aware how his flippant joke could be perceived.
“That’ll be the headline: Christie Says He’s Mailing It In.”