Christie goes for bipartisan respect, rather than conservative love

TAMPA - In the end, Gov. Christie took his own advice: He chose to be respected rather than loved.

When union-busting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rose to deliver his state’s delegate votes Tuesday afternoon at the Republican convention Tuesday, the crowd showered him with love. When former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum mentioned abortion later in the evening, the crowd went bonkers.

But while Christie’s keynote speech last night was met with a few standing ovations, enthusiastic laughter and resounding applause, the New Jersey governor didn’t offer hard-core conservative applause lines, he didn’t express hatred of the president – he didn’t even mention the president’s first or last name.

And that's why many conservatives today don't seem to be jumping for joy.

Politicians, Christie had said, "have been paralyzed by our desire to be loved," and so "hard truths" need to be told. So the keynote may have been an example of that very thing.

"The easy thing to do at a convention is to throw the delegates what we call red meat, give lines that you know are going to be great for applause," former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, who delivered the 1988 Republican convention keynote speech, told me this morning.

Kean said the speech contrasted with Pat Buchanan's "culture war" 1992 convention keynote, which fired up delegates but turned off viewers at home.

"It works in the hall beautifully, but it doesn't work so well on television, because that's not what the country wants to hear...[Christie] resisted that last night, he spoke to the country in a reasoned way...and it was a much better speech because of that."

Some big-names disagreed. 

On Fox News, commentator Chris Wallace said today: "It was one of the most off-key keynote speeches I ever heard."

He noted that Christie mentioned "I" 37 times and "Romney" just seven times.

"It seems at times he was promoting his own candidacy rather than Mitt Romney," Wallace said.

The Internet piled on this point, with one writer saying Romney was sending "death stares" to Christie during his remarks.

Still, noted Rider University political scientist Ben Dworkin: "He did, we should remember, look directly into the camera and called out, 'Mr. President.'"