State of the State: emotional speech, emotional reactions

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie delivered an emotional State of the State speech today, applauding New Jerseyans for their emotional resilience in the face of super storm Sandy.

For his opponents, however, the address was more notable for what was not said. Christie’s supporters, though, warned about the risks of challenging a popular governor in this election year.

Democratic State Sen. and former Gov. Dick Codey, for example, pounced on what he felt was missing from the speech.

“What you didn’t hear was how bad unemployment is since he’s been governor,’’ said Codey, a rumored gubernatorial challenger.

“This budget is short hundreds of millions of dollars,’’ said Codey, who drew on classic literature for his analysis of Christie’s speech: “It’s a tale of two cities.”

“Every day that passes, Sandy becomes less of a factor in our lives and in our thoughts.’’

However, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr. warned that such divisive partisanship is the “wrong solution,’’ and he pointed to the remarks made Monday by Senate President Steve Sweeney as an example of political remarks that miss their target. Sweeney made remarks, immediately apologized for, that indicated Christie “prayed” for Sandy.

The State of the State address, according to Kean, offered a “snapshot’’ of the state and served as an affirmation that New Jersey is headed in the right direction.

Christie, in his speech, mentioned specifically his administrations’ accomplishments over three years: tenure reform, pension and benefit reform, and reducing the rate of tax increases, and he spoke in general about how the state will recover from Sandy.

How the governor is handling Sandy and its aftermath, Kean said, will serve as an example of the “legacy of his leadership.”

And Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick pointed out that Christie’s opponents should be aware that polls show even Democrats like Christie, especially in the wake of the devastating storm.

“People trust him,’’ Bramnick said. “Trying to cut him down hasn’t worked. The message is that we have got to recover from Sandy. We have to put our energy into that.”

But Democratic Sen. Paul Sarlo, the Budget Committee chairman, reiterated the idea that as time passes, the post-Sandy popularity boost for Christie may decline.

“The middle class will recognize that his policies are troublesome,” he said. “Many municipalities were on weak fiscal footing” before Sandy even struck, he said.

"He’s obviously working very, very hard at it. I mean he’s traveling all over the country as chairman of the [Republican Governors Association] and I think at this point he has as good a chance or better than anybody else. His name is household word all across the country, and I think he would make a great president."
—former U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-3), on Gov. Chris Christie