CONCORD, New Hampshire. In this most conservative of the New England states, residents pride themselves on their flinty self-reliance and a first-in-the-nation presidential primary, which brings added revenues to local merchants when political reporters arrive in droves every four years. “I’d compare them to a plague of locusts,” says Ewell Perkins, a retired sawmill employee seated at the counter of the Flinty Self-Reliance Diner on Loudon Road near the state capitol building, “but the locusts have the decency to come only once every seven years.”
With the Democratic nomination almost a foregone conclusion interest in the Republican primary is high, and an unlikely dark horse is starting to gain traction as the February date approaches. “I like the fat one,” Perkins says, momentarily at a loss for the name of Chris Christie, the brash New Jersey governor who over the years has struggled with his weight, usually losing best two falls out of three. “He’s got some new ideas, and God knows them folks in Washington need ’em.”
A new poll shows Christie surging into fourth place among the 216 announced candidates for the Republican nomination following the release of his platform, which includes a plank that promises to save taxpayers money by reducing the number of federal employees by just one position. “I’m man enough to admit that our government has grown too big to understand the needs of ordinary citizens,” reads the text of his “Cutting the Fat in Government” proposal. “If elected president, I’m a big enough man to be my own vice-president, thus eliminating a do-nothing job that mainly involves going to funerals of heads of third world countries nobody gives a crap about.”
The current salary of the Vice President is $230,700, even though in the words of John Nance Garner, the 32nd Vice President, the office is “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” Historians of the Vice Presidency say Garner’s assessment has “held up remarkably well,” says Peter Bruinz, a professor of political science at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire. “We can disagree as to its precise temperature,” Bruintz says, “but I don’t think there’s any debate that a bucket of piss–sometimes euphemized as ‘spit’–is what the office is composed of.”
Christie’s actual weight is a closely-guarded secret, with two New Jersey National Guardsmen stationed outside his bathroom whenever he steps on his scale. He had “lap-band” surgery in 2013 that may have reduced his avoirdupois by as much as 100 pounds, which he uses as a stand-in to appear at press conferences when he closes traffic lanes on state-controlled bridges.
Despite all the flak he takes for his portly figure, Christie has won the hearts of New Hampshire residents with his homey retail politics, going from one greasy spoon to the next to sample the fare in the state whose unofficial nickname is “The Breakfast-All-Day State,” shaking hands as he goes with his signature line “Are you going to finish that?” “I hate to see people leave waffles and sausages on their plates,” he says, growing misty-eyed, “when there are kids in Newark going to bed hungry.”