Donald Trump and Chris Christie are both brash, egomaniacal, bullying Northeasterners running for the nation's top job. They both seem to derive genuine pleasure from puffing themselves up and putting everyone else down.
So why is Trump soaring in the polls, and Christie gasping for air?
Christie's in-your-face style appealed to some until Donald came along and ripped your face off -- all the while telling you he did it smarter and better than anyone, and anyway, illegal immigrants were to blame.
Some say Christie missed his chance, that had he run in 2012, he would have had a good shot at being president.
I would argue that Christie never had a chance, then or now, and had he somehow gotten his party's nomination to run against Barack Obama back then, the contrast between the two would have exposed Christie for the thin-skinned, mean-spirited guy he is, and catapulted Obama to an even greater victory than he won against Mitt. (Though had Christie been the nominee, it would have spared us the faux controversy over Christie's hug of Obama during the Hurricane Sandy aftermath.)
But Christie didn't run then, and he is running now. And sadly, for Christie and for the United States, so is Donald Trump.
The similarities are evident: both are arrogant, self-obsessed, happy to dismiss and denigrate those they don't like, though Christie (to his credit?) tends to do it by directly telling those who disagree with him to "Sit down and shut up" while Donald suggests they go back to wherever they came from or that they are bleeding through unspecified orifices, and if that doesn't work, has his goons remove them (Christie is his own goon.)
The differences are perhaps more subtle, if subtle is a word that can ever be ascribed to either of these cartoon characters.
Christie does know his stuff, at least when it comes to New Jersey. I have had the opportunity to watch him fairly closely, and went to six of his town hall meetings, and while I continue to disagree adamantly with the perception that he is a "master" at working the crowd (that is one of those enduring myths no one takes the time to challenge or investigate) he does have command over budgets and policies. He knows what each of his cabinet heads are doing. He isn't a wonk, but he isn't a gleeful ignoramus either.
He just hasn't run the state very well, as reflected in the state's dismal, and sliding, credit rating, his pitiful record of job creation, the high property taxes, the migration out of state of a people and businesses, and the highly publicized but thus far not indictable conduct surrounding Bridgegate which highlighted Christie's questionable political payback style.
Donald doesn't know his stuff, and is both proud of it, and hailed as a hero for being uninformed by his Kool-Aid drinking loyal supporters. Being ignorant of policy and world affairs is a badge of honor for Donald.
Donald is a master showman who controls the big tent like he was born in it, which he kind of was. Christie can work the sideshow fairly well, but -- to mix metaphors -- like the small town athlete who dominates the headlines and struts around campus until he goes up against the college superstar, Christie's status as a World Class Bully has been diminished by one who really is a World Class Bully.
Can things change for the better for the New Jersey governor during this campaign? Probably not.
Christie needs one helluva "break out" moment, and it's hard to see that happening. He needs to part the Red Sea, or at least the Hudson River, to get people to see him as anything but a pale shadow of Donald.
Christie may find comfort in the belief that he somehow missed his moment in 2012, when in fact he would have been obliterated by Obama. As glaring as the contrast is between Donald and Christie, the contrast between the President and Christie is even more striking.
The Better Bully Candidate has emerged, and no one can take that title from him, not even a pretty good bully like Christie.
Maybe Christie can salvage something of his reputation if he comes back home and starts trying to govern, the job my foolish fellow residents elected him to do -- twice. But his approval rating and popularity in New Jersey are abysmal and it is unlikely he can recover from those numbers in his time left in office - if he decides to stay in office.
Besides, that would mean Christie would have to listen to those who disagree with him, and resist the urge -- an urge he rarely has resisted -- to tell voters, taxpayers, to sit down and shut up.
And that's just not like him.