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The Pride of New Jersey

2:00 AM, Aug 28, 2012 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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State Senator Diane Allen first ran into Chris Christie in 1999 when he was working as a lawyer and a lobbyist. The two went to meet George W. Bush together as the Texas governor was assembling support for his presidential run. She liked Christie instantly. “He’s always been very comfortable with himself,” she says. “And he’s one of those people who, after you meet them for five minutes, you feel like you’ve known them your whole life.”

Over the years the two became close—so much so that in 2009 Christie nearly chose her to run as his lieutenant governor. Instead, he picked Monmouth County sheriff Kim Guadagno.

While Allen was discussing the possibility of the job with Christie, she noticed a tickle in her throat. Because Christie picked Guadagno and Allen didn’t have to hit the campaign trail, she had time to go see a doctor. It turned out she had oral cancer. Even though she caught it early, her fight against it was a close-run thing. Had she been Christie’s running mate? “He saved my life,” Allen says matter-of-factly.

And just as matter-of-factly, she says, “I think he’ll be president one day.”

Ask members of the New Jersey delegation what they think about Chris Christie and the phrase that nearly always comes up is “rock star.” And the overwhelming sentiment they express is pride.

Every group is proud of its champion, of course. That’s part of the team sport of politics. But what’s going on in New Jersey right now is different. For one thing, New Jersey is not a state given naturally to civic pride. It’s the home of Camden and The Sopranos and “Which exit?” And it’s particularly unnatural for New Jerseyans to be proud of their governor. Jon Corzine was an egomaniacal plutocrat who treated the state only slightly more honorably than he did MF Global. Then there was the rest-stop cruising, gay-American governor Jim McGreevey. And Jim Florio was so breathtakingly unpopular that in New Jersey today you still see the occasional bumper sticker celebrating his defeat 19 years ago: “Florio-Free in ’93.”

“It really is overwhelming to us,” Christie told the delegation on Sunday night, “that three years ago at this time, we were in the midst of the worst month of the [gubernatorial] campaign in 2009. A really difficult time for us as a family. Getting through all of the negative attacks and the difficulties. And to think that three years later here we are with all of our friends and supporters. .  .  . You make me incredibly proud. And I’m going to work as hard as I can to make sure that between 10:30 and 11:00 Tuesday night I make all of you proud, too.”

He already has.

Jonathan V. Last is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

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