Though some have argued that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie faces a major and formidable challenge in State Senator Barbara Buono, observers widely agree that their Tuesday debate fell in Christie'a favor, showing that the often fiery Guv still has some serious political savvy.
Buono seemingly came ready for a fight. At least, she expected the take-no-prisoners New Jersey tough guy version of Chris Christie instead of the respectful and non-combative version she ended up with. It's a Christie we've seen before, but certainly not the weathered Governor you'd count on seeing at a political debate.
But it worked. In fact, it worked better than politics as usual.
The moment that inked the debate firmly in Christie's favor came when both were asked to say something nice about the other.
Buono went first, offering a clever back-handed compliment all-too-familiar in such political games. "He's good on late-night TV," she said.
Christie came next, and his answer was stunning.
"She's obviously a good and caring mother and someone who cares deeply about public service," he said. "I would never denigrate her service."
You'll have to see it for yourself (above), as it comes off far more sincere than when its read off the screen. Indeed, Christie's soft-ball debate tactics haven't been seen as insincere at all, or even patronizing. Rather, observers have attributed it to his cleverness.
"This is the governor who normally fires off insults with the glee of a schoolboy armed with a pea-shooter. Among the terms he has used to describe his opponents: jerk, idiot, stupid, arrogant S.O.B.," writes Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger.
"But not Tuesday night. Because love him or hate him, this governor is a smart and disciplined politician. And he knew that with a commanding lead, and especially facing a woman, his prime directive was to avoid blowing it by picking a fight that might make him unlikeable."
You can check out Chris Christie's full debate with Barbara Buono here.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons]