South Plainfield, N.J. — Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who’s riding high in the opinion polls, is considered a leading contender for the GOP’s vice-presidential nomination. His town-hall meeting here on Thursday afternoon, held at a local gymnasium, shows why his national political stock is rising — and why Garden State Republicans have mixed feelings about his potential departure.
The event begins with cinematic flair. The lights dim, the 400-member-plus audience hushes, and a screen at the front of the room begins to crackle. Pulsating orchestral music plays as Christie narrates his gubernatorial record. The flickering images, which wash across the faces of the elderly crowd, are reminiscent of the title sequence of The Sopranos. A gritty New Jersey, filmed through sepia and black-and-white tones, comes into view. Broken windows, snarling legislators, and down-and-out cities form a montage. But through all the grime, slowly and steadily, strolls one man. He’s a warrior, a hero, and an outsider.
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