Chris Christie and the thin line between brash and bully

Newsflash: Chris Christie has a bit of an ego.

Yes, we all knew this long before Christie's spat with Rand Paul. Case in point is Christie's supposition in Dan Balz's new book that his endorsement of Mitt Romney constituted an "enormous gift" to Romney.

But the latest episode in the Paul-Christie drama is perhaps even more illustrative -- namely, Christie's unwillingness to let sleeping dogs lie and grab a beer with Paul, as Paul proposed.

And not only did Christie decline the beer summit, but he also suggested Paul is using him to increase his profile.

"I just have to assume from that that he’s trying to get some attention," Christie said Wednesday. "And that’s fine. He’s not the first politician to use me to get attention in the national media, and I’m sure he won’t be the last.”

Whoah.

The question from here is, at what point does Christie's ego get the better of him? Yes, his style plays great in New Jersey -- a state that prides itself on toughness and brashness. But how will it wear on the American people if he runs for president in 2016? And at what point does Christie cease being endearingly brash and start being a bully?

As The Fix has noted, Christie relishes the idea of being the anti-politician, telling it like it is and damn the torpedoes. It's a big part of his brand, and it's what has gotten him where he is today.

Christie said Tuesday of his criticism of libertarians like Paul: “I was asked a question at a forum in Aspen, and I gave an answer. Now I know that for politicians in Washington, D.C., this is a completely foreign concept. They think there has to be some master plan behind every utterance you make. …If you ask me a question, I give an answer. That’s what people expect from people in public life.”

That's a great brand to have, so long as you can actually pull it off.

After all, there is a reason that most politicians are so careful; it's what enables them to win reelection over and over again. The less you take firm positions, the fewer enemies you create and the fewer constituents you alienate.

And let's not forget that it wasn't long ago that even many in New Jersey saw Christie is a "bully." Just a year ago, a Quinnipiac poll showed that, given the choice between "leader" and "bully," 50 percent said he was a "leader" and 45 percent chose "bully."

Since then, of course, Christie's personal approval ratings in New Jersey and nationally have soared. And there's certainly no better testament to his political acumen than that.

But invariably, Christie will face some difficult times in the months and years ahead, and his blunt and brash style may not play so well when the chips are down -- and when people outside New Jersey start paying closer attention to him.

For now, he's got the Midas Touch. But it remains to be seen whether, when that's gone, he can censor himself. Because there will come a time.

Fixbits:

Christie raises money with Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is going to Iowa on Saturday.

President Obama on Thursday nominated restructuring expert John Koskinen to lead the IRS.

The Senate on Thursday approved Samantha Power as ambassador to the United Nations.

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the apparent GOP recruit to face Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), in college praised Bill and Hillary Clinton and criticized libertarians.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Thursday signed a medical marijuana bill into law.

Must-reads:

"Budget truce seems out of reach as congressional recess looms" -- Lori Montgomery, Washington Post

"Democratic divide over NSA could pose problem for Obama" -- Aaron Blake and Scott Wilson, Washington Post

"Alison Lundergan Grimes in the game against Mitch McConnell" -- Manu Raju, Politico

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