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Born to run: Chris Christie pays homage to Springsteen

ElectionsPoliticsChris ChristieBruce SpringsteenBarack ObamaJon Bon Jovi

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may be about to stomp his Democratic opponent into the ground, a step toward mounting a presidential campaign in 2016. He may have the newly pronounced endorsement of Shaquille O’Neal. But his love for Bruce Springsteen is still largely unrequited.

So in lieu of backing from the man himself, the Republican governor offered a joking homage as he announced that his election night celebration next week would be — where else? -- in Asbury Park. The same Asbury Park long prowled by Springsteen and his E Street Band mates, the one featured in aged postcard style on the cover of his breakthrough album “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” which arrived in record stores in 1973, back when there were postcards and albums and record stores.

The announcement of Christie’s event featured a mock-up, “Live from Asbury Park, New Jersey.” Christie’s signature is scrawled across the top of the faked postcard, as Springsteen’s was on the album cover, and pictures of his face make up the letters, as pictures of Asbury Park did on the cover. (Springsteen would have no room to gripe, really, given that he has acknowledged swiping the idea for the album cover from a postcard he found at a boardwalk store.)

The love/indifference relationship between the governor and Springsteen is by now a part of Christie’s lore. He is not the only politician to attach himself to the singer’s coattails; Springsteen was angered when Republicans absconded with his anthemic “Born in the USA” as part of the Reagan reelection messaging in 1984; on a more copacetic note, he campaigned and sang for 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry and, four years later, for Barack Obama. His “We Take Care of Our Own” and "Land of Hope and Dreams" were common send-off songs at Obama rallies in last year’s campaign.

But, at the very least, Christie is a fan.

Perhaps the greatest explication of his ardorcame last year in the Atlantic, whose national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg inexplicably got Christie to agree to let him tag along to a concert at the Prudential Center in Newark, by the governor’s count then the 129th Bruce show he had seen.

It is an awesome tale of a man who, in the heart of the moment — and all Springsteen fans will see themselves in him, let’s be honest — does not care how silly he looks as he pumps his fist and dances and plays air guitar. His Bruce bona fides are undeniable; he sings the words to “Bishop Danced,” a song played only five times in the thousands of Springsteen concerts, according to a comprehensive, fan-created web listing of all things Bruce. ("Born to Run," by contrast, has been played 1,339 times.)

Things did warm slightly between rocker and politician last year, with negotiating assistance from President Obama. As Christie told the story, he and Obama were talking on the phone in  the days after Superstorm Sandy, as Obama campaigned elsewhere. Obama passed the phone to Springsteen, who happened to be hitching a ride on Air Force One.

"It was great to talk to the president, and even better to talk to Bruce," Christie joked later. Days earlier, the governor recounted, he and Springsteen had met during a telethon to raise money for storm victims.

“We hugged,” Christie reported. “And he told me it’s official: We’re friends.”

Christie told reporters he had told Obama about the meeting and that there was “a lot of weeping” in his house afterward.

"The president asked why, and I said, 'Well, to be honest I was the one doing the weeping.' "

The infatuation with Bruce came up in a gubernatorial debate this month between Christie and his extreme-underdog opponent, Democrat Barbara Buono. Both were asked their favorite musical act: Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi, another Jersey boy. A softball down the middle.

Bruce, Christie said, and “Thunder Road” was his favorite song. Buono, underscoring why she is two dozen points behind Christie in recent polls, gave another answer indeed: Beyonce.

cathleen.decker@latimes.com

Twitter: @cathleendecker

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