Grad Profile: Pursuing an End to Inequality in Public Education
Gwen Baxley was a high school student in a Jersey City charter school when she discovered the messy reality of public school funding....
Rutgers Study Shows Depleted Fish Stocks Can Come Back from the Brink
Fish stocks that have been depleted for decades can find their own way back to healthy levels if timely limits are put on their catch, Rutgers scientists say.
- Politics, Law and Public Policy;
- Politics, Law and Public Policy / Government
Hot Topic: Gov. Christie to Give Keynote at Republican Convention
More common-man appeal than Romney, the governor may be able to deliver a message that resonates with more people
Editor’s Note: Professor Greenberg can be reached at 646-504-5071 or email@example.com.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been tapped as the keynote speaker for the Republican convention later this month. It’s a high profile slot that can sometimes make or break a political career. David Greenberg, associate professor of history and journalism and media studies in the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, said Christie will have to adapt his rhetoric to fill the role of statesman at the convention. Greenberg studies the American presidency and its reflection in the media and popular culture. He is author of Nixon’s Shadow: the History of an Image, Presidential Doodles and Calvin Coolidge. He is presently working on a book about the history of political spin.
Rutgers Today: Gov. Chris Christie has been named as the keynote speaker for the Republican National Convention. Why Christie?
Greenberg: Mitt Romney’s main problem is that he’s a flawed messenger for the pro-business agenda of the Republican Party. In his biography and his appearance, he comes across as the embodiment of the so-called 1 percent. Christie, to the extent that he’s popular beyond the Republican base, seems to have more of a common-man appeal than Romney. He may be able to deliver the Republican message in terms that regular people can relate to. His major failing as a messenger, however, is that he often comes across as a bully or a loudmouth. Although a certain amount of vituperation is expected at conventions – last time around it came from Rudy Giuliani - the keynote is usually a time for someone more statesmanlike. Christie will have to find a new form of political rhetoric, one that does not alienate people who disagree with him, to succeed as a keynoter.
Rutgers Today: We know that politicians – Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama come to mind – have used convention speeches to gain national prominence, and eventually ended up in the White House. What about politicians whose speeches have bombed? Is the damage from such a disaster irreparable?
Greenberg: A high-profile national debut can certainly be a great opportunity. Obama’s speech in 2004 made him an instant darling of liberals and a future presidential contender. On the other hand, many keynoters have blown the opportunity. How many people even remember that four years ago Mark Warner gave the Democrats’ keynote? It was not a very good speech. Or who remembers that in 2000 the keynoter was Harold Ford, who hardly set his own political career on fire? Bill Bradley also delivered a terrible keynote several years back, which didn’t kill his presidential hopes but clearly didn’t do much for them either.
On the third hand, there have been poorly received keynote speeches that didn’t stand in the way of a politician’s rise. The most famous of course was Bill Clinton, who spoke far too long in 1988. Nonetheless, he emerged as the Democrats’ nominee four years later. The bottom line is that most convention speeches are not remembered for very long. Examples like Obama’s speech in 2004 are the exception, not the rule.
Rutgers Today: There hasn't been a contested convention in more than 30 years. What is the point of holding these conventions, anyway? The nominees are already decided.
Greenberg: The conventions have always had multiple purposes. In fact, throughout our history, the choice of a nominee has often been a foregone conclusion, and yet the parties have held these conclaves. They exist to unify the party, to rally the base, to generate excitement, to send a message to undecided and swing voters, to unveil themes for the fall campaign, to expose the public broadly to the candidate’s ideas and biography. Critics say that the conventions are merely staged, scripted affairs. But without conventions, the candidates and their spin doctors would be even more sequestered from the public.
Media Contact: Carl Blesch
732-932-7084 ext. 616