You may have heard that Christie was a former federal prosecutor. While not quite Giuliani’s 9/11 tic, his time as a prosecutor played a huge role during his short-lived campaign for the presidency, in part because his time as governor of New Jersey was defined by scandal. (Only 26 percent of people in the state think he’s doing a good job as governor.)
“As a former federal prosecutor...” is practically the only introductory phrase the gruff Christie knows, and his speech, in which he “prosecuted” Hillary Clinton, was aimed squarely at the people inside Quicken Loans Arena—Christie absolutely knew his audience. Looked at from a (sizable) distance, Christie’s speech, in which he listed a litany of Clinton’s supposed failures in Libya, Iran, and elsewhere (Christie slammed Clinton for being soft on Russia, despite Trump’s well-known love for Putin) was what Republicans should be doing to Hillary Clinton: Turning her perceived strength in foreign policy into a weakness. But in practice, it was a grotesque display of demagoguery: Christie wanted to stir up the #LockHerUp mob and that’s exactly what he did. The subtext was barely subtext: “She fights for the wrong people,” Christie said. “She never fights for us.” (The irony of Christie prosecuting Clinton was not lost on the Clinton campaign.)
One thing that can be said for Christie is that, unlike nearly everyone else who spoke on Tuesday, he has charisma, and the response he got from the crowd—if it was four hundred years ago they would have been screaming “Burn her” instead of “Lock her up”—surely got Trump’s attention. It’s easy to imagine Trump watching Christie on TV and starting to get cold feet about his decision to wed his candidacy to Mike Pence—maybe Paul Manafort is wrestling the phone away from him right now.