Reporter Halbfinger let Malloy hypocritically pat himself on the back for civility while taking pot shots at Christie. Halbfinger played along, portraying Christie as "blustery and bellicose" compared to the "polite" Democrat Malloy, portrayed as closing a deficit while spending "much of his energy finding ways to spare the most vulnerable."
(Halbfinger is not crazy about New Jersey Republicans; a May 30, 2009 story  on the Republican primary for the governor's race (won by Christie) described Christie's opponent Steve Lonegan as an "ultraconservative former small-town mayor" pushing Christie "far to the right.")
There is Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey: blustery and bellicose, hectoring the unions, enthralling fellow Republicans with his tax caps and spending cuts, already generating presidential murmurings after barely a year in office.
And then, up the road in Connecticut, there is a new governor trying to be everything Mr. Christie is not.
Mr. Christie criticizes unions and forces wrenching spending cuts at the local level. Connecticut's new governor, Dannel P. Malloy, politely asks labor leaders for givebacks and wants to raise taxes on income and sales by $1.5 billion.
Mr. Malloy grew up with dyslexia and physical disabilities. He still cannot write or type. And as he closes a 20 percent budget deficit, he spends much of his energy finding ways to spare the most vulnerable.
But what is most striking about Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, is that just six weeks after taking charge of such a mild-mannered state, he is publicly taking shots at his celebrated counterpart in New Jersey, attacking his politics and policies, his intellect, even his personality.
"Being bombastic for the sake of being bombastic," Mr. Malloy said, "has just never been my take on the world."
Unlike his counterparts, though, he has set out to prove that even in an age of austerity one can govern as a defender of the social safety net.
As a candidate last year, he took a beating for refusing to forswear tax increases. He also promised not to gut education or shift the costs of services on to cities and towns. (He also stuck by his opposition to the death penalty while a gruesome triple-murder trial riveted the state, and wants to treat possession of less than an ounce of marijuana like a traffic ticket.) He won by barely half a percentage point.
But over two days of conversations, Mr. Malloy offered a more wide-ranging critique of Mr. Christie's style, contrasting it with his own and with Mr. Cuomo's. "Say what you want about Andrew, he's a more erudite individual, in my opinion, than the governor of New Jersey," Mr. Malloy said.
But then what, he was asked, accounts for Mr. Christie's stardom? "He has become the darling of Republicans because he's perceived as taking Democrats on rudely," Mr. Malloy said. "If a Democrat took Republicans on rudely, they wouldn't be elevated in the Democratic Party. There's a different standard. We're supposed to be polite to people."
Democrats are more polite than Republicans? That's news to Times Watch.
Halbfinger let Malloy indulge in more moral preening.
"You can't separate me from my upbringing as a child overcoming learning disabilities and having to make my way through that," he said. "My dad wasn't the governor. I wasn't born with a gigantic chip on my shoulder. But, there's this thing that I carry around. Everybody has something they carry around. It's a miracle that I'm here. That's why I have a desire to do good for people who it's more expensive to do good for."You can follow Times Watch on Twitter .
What political price he will pay for his priorities will start to become clear on Wednesday, when Mr. Malloy unveils his first budget. The heaviest cuts, aside from state workers, will hit social services and health care. But he wants an earned-income tax cut to soften the blow on the working poor.