Six months ago, as the scandal over the George Washington bridge closure was putting Chris Christie’s political future in doubt, the New Jersey governor’s idol, Bruce Springsteen, hit him where it hurt: He performed a Bridgegate parody of “Born to Run” on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show.
As the traffic fiasco fades into the background, it was Christie’s turn on Thursday to try to use the power of late-night TV to his benefit, appearing on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in hopes that a little levity will go a long way to improving likability.
So he danced. In a segment called “The Evolution of Dad Dancing,” a variation on a Fallon video with Michelle Obama that went viral, Christie did air guitar to show the “Dance You Do at a Springsteen Concert.” But he pretended to be perturbed when the dance was titled “This Bridge Is Closed.”
Christie also playfully chided Fallon for making a joke about his weight, calling the host a “putz.”
Late-night TV is the forum of choice for politicians to show their softer, more relaxed side, even though it is a mixed bag when it comes to bringing a public figure back from the brink. After a brain freeze during a 2011 debate, Rick Perry tried to laugh it off by doing a David Letterman Top Ten list. As he was dogged by allegations of sexual harassment, Herman Cain went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Neither appearance helped turn around their campaigns.
Christie was neither overly contrite — nor did he try a zinger to settle the score with Springsteen.
Christie’s goal on “The Tonight Show” seemed to be to show that, despite falling off the 2016 radar, he was still in the game. When Fallon asked whether, hypothetically, he ran and Hillary Clinton ran for president, and whether he could beat her, Christie didn’t pause. “Hypothetically, you bet.”