Chris Christie Looks for a Late-Night Lift
He didn’t dance “the belt grabber” or chest bump talk-show host Jimmy Fallon this time, but New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie happily lampooned himself on late-night television Monday.
The Republican presidential candidate returned for his sixth sit down with Mr. Fallon across the host’s two late-night shows, with Mr. Christie lip syncing to Bruce Springsteen,reminiscing about his days pumping gas as a teen and enduring mockery about his love for ice cream.
“If I ever leave public life, you’re going to have to hire two writers just to replace the garbage you say about me,” Mr. Christie told Mr. Fallon on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Over the years, Mr. Christie has used his appearances on late-night television to burnish his national reputation and help him move past political rough spots.
Mr. Christie appeared on Mr. Fallon’s former show, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” after winning the governor’s race in 2010, after he delivered the keynote speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention and when presidential talk swirled around him in 2013.
Last year, when the two men donned khakis and shimmied for the cameras in the wildly popular segment “The Evolution of Dad Dancing,” it helped Mr. Christie turn the page from the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal that had engulfed his administration.
Now, Mr. Christie is seeking to recapture some of that magic as he faces low poll numbers among the 17-person field seeking the GOP nomination for president. Mr. Christie currently ranks 11th in a Real Clear Politics average of polls, which means he may not be included on the main stage at the second Republican debate in September.
Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain,said it is particularly important for GOP presidential contenders this year to turn to late-night television to play up their personalities because White House hopeful Donald Trump is taking up most of the oxygen on the campaign trail.
“It gives the candidates a chance to display different aspects of their personalities than they can at a campaign rally or in a news interview,” Mr. Schmidt said. “You look at the impact of Trump’s candidacy in the race from an entertainment perspective, and this allows them to try to approach that.”
On Monday show, Mr. Fallon ribbed Mr. Christie for being overshadowed by Mr. Trump. Mr. Fallon told the governor that he “thought you’re the guy to go out and yell and say stuff.”
“Life is just a strange, strange ride, Jimmy, and we’ll just keep riding it,” Mr. Christie said.
Many politicians across the region have graced the sets of late-night programs over the years. During David Letterman’s 22-year run on CBS’ “Late Show,” former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appeared about 28 times, according to network records. Mr. Giuliani’s successor, Michael Bloomberg, made six appearances and former New York Gov. George Pataki appeared five times, the records show.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman each appeared three times on Mr. Letterman’s show.
Though not known for his sense of humor, Mr. Bloomberg drew laughs in 2008 when he gave Mr. Letterman’s beard a key to the city. Mr. Letterman had grown a beard during a two-month-long writers’ strike.
As he was exiting office in December 2013, Mr. Bloomberg penned thank you notes on Mr. Fallon’s show, including one to Mr. Fallon himself for bringing the “Tonight Show” to New York City from California. In an April 2012 spot, Mr. Bloomberg joked he might steal Mr. Fallon’s job when he left City Hall.
“I was thinking actually, I can just see it now: Late Night with Mike Bloomberg,” Mr. Bloomberg quipped.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s liberal policies have been the target of jokes about socialism and marijuana in late-night appearances. His strained relationship with New York Gov.Andrew Cuomo was mocked in March when Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore asked Mr. de Blasio whether his quest for more state funds makes him beg “like the guy on the subway?”
“That’s actually how I do it in Albany,” Mr. de Blasio replied, laughing.
Mr. Cuomo, on the other hand, has almost entirely shunned late-night shows, turning down several invitations, including one to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in advance of the publication of his memoir last year.
When Mr. McCain first ran for president in 2000, appearing on late-night television was considered a bit controversial, with some questioning whether the comedic format lowered the dignity of the office he sought, Mr. Schmidt said. Now, he said, appearing on late night is almost expected.
“I don’t think you can overinvest in the importance of one appearance,” he said, “but the shows have big audiences.”