N.J. Gov. Chris Christie's State of the State address garnered national attention
Christie tackled head-on a controversy that suggests political payback by aides
John King: "He did exactly what he needed to do by getting to it first"
Ryan Lizza: Christie used phrase associated with past scandal that has been mocked
Chris Christie got to the point immediately.
The embattled New Jersey governor, who’s seriously considering a 2016 run for the White House, began his State of the State address on Tuesday by pledging to cooperate with multiple investigations into controversies that are threatening to complicate his political future.
He didn’t specifically mention suggestions that top aides orchestrated traffic gridlock near the country’s busiest bridge last year in an alleged case of political payback, but noted that “mistakes were clearly made.”
His usual swagger gone, Christie continued: “And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better. Much better. I am the governor and I am ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch - both good and bad.”
A Republican in a state dominated by Democrats, Christie then moved on.
He used the rest of the 45-minute address before state legislators in Trenton to push his legislative agenda and tout his accomplishments.
He threaded through his entire speech pitches for his bipartisan efforts, making a plea for those efforts to continue.
So, how’d he do?
Addressing the controversy early was the right move, experts and analysts said.
CNN Chief National Correspondent John King: “He did exactly what he needed to do by getting to it first. His trademark is being blunt and direct. His brand, his trademark, is damaged right now. He’s trying to get the tarnish off it. This was a first page in the next chapter of Chris Christie. We don’t know where that chapter is going.”
CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger: “He got it out of the way early, he said what he needed to say.”
But Borger also said she believes “a line of argument against Chris Christie has been established with the public. That he is petty, that his administration was vengeful. If he wants to reverse that narrative, he does have to get something done in a bipartisan way and he has to get this story over with and it doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon.”
Borger also observed Christie’s turn-of-phrase.
“He said that ‘mistakes were made,’ not that he made the mistakes.”
Borger added that Democrats in New Jersey “now believe they have an opening (against Christie) and they’re going right through it.”
CNN Political Analyst John Avlon: “He needed to address the elephant in the room right off the top, and he did. He was contrite – mistakes were made. Pay careful attention to the word ‘appropriate’ – he’ll cooperate with all ‘appropriate’ inquiries. I don’t think he’s going to try to turn over private e-mails.”
CNN Political Analyst Ana Navarro: “I think it was very smart of him to address it right off the bat. He knew all of us were watching those first few minutes. Then he could go on to talk about filling potholes in New Jersey. But he captured our attention with those first few sentences.”
But also in those first few sentences was a phrase that surprised CNN Political Commentator Ryan Lizza: “Mistakes were made.”
“Every politician, every pundit knows that that is a phrase, at the very least, from the Iran-Contra scandal, and it’s basically been mocked as this passive voice and way of pretending to take responsibility for something when you’re not,” Lizza said.
CNN Chief National Correspondent Jake Tapper and CNN’s Halimah Abdullah contributed to this report.