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Philip Maddocks: Grind of indulging voters takes a toll on presidential candidates

 
Philip Maddocks
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updated: 1/7/2016 11:02 AM

Saying they need a break from the daily grind of pandering to voters, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida are leaving the presidential campaign trail briefly for a lavish multi-city getaway.

"When you are out there day after day in New Hampshire, trying to appeal to the basest instincts of voters, it's easy to lose sight of what's important," Mr. Bush said. "But when I get on that charter jet of a major donor, or sit down to a $28,000 meal, it helps keep me grounded, gets my juices flowing again."

"It does get wearying telling voters every day how important they are when, you know, they really aren't," said Mr. Christie, during an extravagant press conference/candidate benefit this week at which he danced on stage with Mr. Bush, acknowledged a crowd that included Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro, and, along with his entourage, indulged frequently in an elaborate spread of foods.

"In a long campaign like this," he said, "it's always healthy to get back to your roots for a few days, just to remind you what's important and why you decided to run for office in the first place."

With a packed schedule of ballroom-style meetings planned in Midtown Manhattan, King Abdullah of Jordan's residence, the Apollo in the Hamptons and at the headquarters of the Right to Rise PAC, which is supporting Mr. Bush, the two candidates have charted an ambitious party schedule that they expect to rejuvenate their campaigns and turn attention back to what made the pair successful politicians to begin with.

Exhausted by months of trying to flatter, cajole and otherwise seduce New Hampshire voters into supporting them, Mr. Christie, who has held 40-plus question-and-answer sessions in the state, and Mr. Bush, who has held 27, say they want to spend more time -- at least temporarily -- with their family of big donors and in the comfort of private jets.

"When you are out there week in and week out trying to tell voters the truth, it can be tough to be honest with yourself," Mr. Christie said. "Sometimes it takes a night or two in the King David in Jerusalem or the Intercontinental in Mexico City or the Corinthia in London to put everything back into perspective."

Mr. Bush said he is looking forward - at least for a few days - to getting back to the $28,000 catering bills and the tens of thousands of dollars spent in rentals and rooms at high-end hotels like the St. Regis in Houston and the Four Seasons in Palo Alto, Calif. and valet service at events in San Francisco, Washington and Coral Gables, Fla. that characterized the early days of his campaign before the candidate was dragged into an ongoing challenge to prove how energetic and how fond of New Hampshire he is.

"I'm really hoping Chris can get Sheldon Adelson to lend us his private plane," Mr. Bush said, referring to the wealthy casino owner and campaign donor. "I want to see what the onboard bedrooms are like. I'm pretty sure they will beat the heck - hell - out of the rooms in New Hampshire."

Both candidates acknowledged that until more draconian laws are put in place to keep ordinary citizens from exercising an undue influence over elections with their secret ballots, presidential hopefuls will be forced to curry favor in backwater locales in New Hampshire and Iowa and other less glamorous early-primary states.

"What the governor and I want to show," Mr. Christie said as he scooped up a plate of bacon-wrapped scallops, "is that it is still possible to pander to voters without giving up the exotic wood interiors and Rolls-Royce engine that make traveling by air in a Cessna Citation X such a rewarding experience."

It has been a grueling proving ground for Mr. Bush and Mr. Christie, but with just over a month to go until New Hampshire's primary, on Feb. 9, both presidential hopefuls say they can see the truffle butter-infused Japanese Wagyu beef at the end of the tunnel.

"I understand the game," Mr. Bush said, grabbing a cupcake with fruit caviar from a passing tray. "I expect after a few days of sleeping and eating like a multimillionaire again, and mingling with wealthy donors, I'll be able to get back to the tedium of indulging voters for the final push. But, I am not going to pretend that this is something that comes easily to me or any of the rest of the candidates. Nor should it."

Philip Maddocks writes a weekly satirical column. He can be reached at pmaddocks@wickedlocal.com.