Three Hundred Pounds of Wise-Cracking Woe

August Kleinzahler on Chris Christie

Chris Christie is very fat. That wasn’t the problem, as he contemplated running for president on the Republican ticket: 75 per cent of Americans are overweight, if not quite that overweight. Governor Christie is also Roman Catholic, and that is a problem, a very considerable problem, as regards his electability nationally. You can be certain his religious affiliation was in the mix as he sat down with his people this week and made his decision not to declare himself as a candidate.

It’s not a problem in New Jersey, which has the fourth highest percentage of Catholics in the country (41 per cent), after Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. New York, at 40 per cent, comes right behind Jersey. Note the geographical proximity of these five states, which vote Democratic more often than not but would probably have found Christie an appealing alternative to Obama. The nation at large, however, is only 25 per cent Catholic. White American Catholics have, generally, tended to become less religious over the past couple of decades. Not so Protestants (51 per cent of the population), especially in the south and west of the country, where the Evangelical Christian movement has spread like kudzu.

We’ve been through this before with Kennedy, you might reasonably note, and we currently have someone of African-American ancestry sitting in the White House. And the leading Republican candidate for president is a Mormon, which doesn’t go down too well out there in the hinterlands, beyond the borders of Utah, either. Bush the Elder called himself Episcopalian, which seems about right. Junior identified himself as Methodist, and as a ‘Reborn Christian’. Reagan was something or other vaguely Christian. He hated going to church. Clinton is Baptist, no surprise. Obama an ‘unaffiliated Christian’, also no surprise.

If you were handicapping the Christie decision to run or not, your eyes might well have been on the Koch brothers, Charles and David, and their tens of billions of dollars, a good chunk of which is devoted to bankrolling right-wing causes and candidates. They appeared to be in favour of a Christie candidacy. The Kochs, from Wichita, Kansas, are Roman Catholic and might well have had the juice to help ease their co-religionist through the Republican primaries in places like South Carolina, Florida and Texas. Had Christie decided to run and made it through the scrum of the primaries without a major temper tantrum and/or coronary, then the Davids, Axelrod and Plouffe, not to mention the president himself, would have found themselves in the ring with 300 pounds of wise-cracking woe. They may have been relieved to learn yesterday that Christie is now going to devote his full attentions to solving the not inconsiderable problems of the Garden State.


  • 5 October 2011 at 10:24pm
    Mark Brady says:
    There are many inaccuracies circulating on the Internet about Charles and David Koch. Be advised they are not Roman Catholic.

  • 6 October 2011 at 6:29pm
    Eliot Weinberger says:
    I’m sorry, Augie, but this is baloney. Joe Biden is a Catholic, and I don’t remember that being an issue in the campaign. Kerry is a Catholic, but that’s not what sunk him. Since JFK there have been five Catholic vice-presidential nominees, unsuccessful for other reasons: Miller, Muskie, Shriver, Ferraro, and (briefly) Eagleton. In fact, being a Catholic may well help with the Hispanic vote, which has become essential. Romney’s religion is a much bigger problem: Mormons are considered weirdos out in America. Will the country vote for a man who (presumably) wears strange underwear?

    Christie more probably assumed that he would have a hard time getting past the Tea Party. They consider him “soft” on gun control and immigration. He hasn’t lowered taxes since he became governor. And perhaps worst of all, he has actually stated that “climate change is real.”

  • 14 October 2011 at 8:23pm
    Pennywhistler says:
    No. He hasn't lowered taxes since he became governor.

    But he faced an $800 million budget hole, the Guv was able to fill the hole without raising taxes.

    The previous administration imposed an astounding 115 tax increases to balance the budget.

    The budget freeze Christie imposed when he took office generated enough savings to cover much of the lost tax money. And he balanced the budget (which he had to do by law).

    That's pretty god-damn effing terrific.

    And he is trying to bring down New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation property tax, though that is a local - not a state - issue.