Chris Christie is not known for keeping his emotions concealed - and the first Republican Debate was no exception. In this example he's betrayed by his body language - and it's not what you may expect.
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Governor Christie does something that's quite rare in a debate - he leans on the lectern. Moreover this isn't done when the cameras are on another candidate - but when all attention is focused on him - during his answer.
Bret Baier begins, "Governor Christie, you’re not exactly the darling of conservatives. You tout your record as a Republican governor in a blue state. On Facebook, the most people talking about you, not surprisingly, come from your state of New Jersey, and one of the top issues they are talking about is the economy. This, this may be why, under your watch, New Jersey has undergone nine credit rating downgrades. The state’s 44th in private sector growth. You face an employee pension crisis and the Garden State has the third highest foreclosure rate in the country. So why should voters believe - that your management of the country’s finances - would be any different?"
At 0:43 Governor Christie answers, "If you think it’s bad now, you should’ve seen it when I got there." (LAUGHTER), (APPLAUSE). [Christie then leans on lectern with his right forearm/elbow and shifts his weight, 0:45 - 1:01] Um, ya - fact is - fact is, in the eight years before I became governor, taxes and fees were raised at the state level 115 times. In the eight years before I became governor, spending was increased 56 percent. And in the eight years before I became governor, there was zero net private sector job growth in New Jersey. Zero. For eight years. So, what did we do? We came in, we balanced an $11 billion deficit on a $29 billion budget by cutting over 800 programs in the state budget. We brought the budget into balance with no tax increases. In fact, we vetoed five income tax increases during my time as governor. We cut business taxes $2.3 billion, and we cut regulation by one-third of what my predecessor put in place. And, what’s happened since? A hundred ninety-two thousand private sector jobs in the five and a half years I’ve been governor. We have a lot of work to do in New Jersey, but I am darn proud we’ve brought our state back."
In body language parlance, Governor Christie is using the lectern as a MAP surrogate (Manipulator, Adaptor, Pacifier) - and even momentary for direct physical support. This lectern-leaning may have appeared to some as a form of swagger, a type of sloppy nonchalance - yet this was far from it. The economy of New Jersey gave the Governor enough anxiety that his knees became weak. You can almost hear his heart palpitating and feel his blood pressure drop.
"Lean on me, when you're not strong. And I'll be your friend - I'll help you carry on ..."
Thus the lectern served the Governor in two ways - for temporary physical support until he gained psychological momentum with his answer - but also in lieu of rubbing the back of his neck, scratching his opposite shoulder, touching his forehead, etc. (none of which he should ever do in a public appearance, particularly during a national debate) - touching an inanimate physical object may also help to down-regulate one's anxiety level (although this is by no means an absolute).
Although he is proud of what he's done for the economics of New Jersey, Mr. Christie either feels he could/should have done more - and/or that this issue will hurt him significantly in his efforts to win the Republican nomination.
As usual, there is a multitude of body language displays in this short video and only one example is highlighted above.
A crucial take-home point here for the other presidential hopefuls: Gov. Christie feels vulnerable on his economic record. Exploit his Achilles' heel to your advantage (just be aware that your weaknesses are equally as visible).
Got body language?
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