With the mea culpas out of the way and damage control in full throttle, the business of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s future is underway.
While even detractors and opponents have mostly given the Republican high marks for his handling of the scandal over politically motivated lane closures — and the resulting gridlock — on the George Washington Bridge last fall, pundits and insiders are hard at work speculating how the incident might hurt Christie, considered a centrist Republican, and help other conservatives believed to also have their sights on the White House in 2016.
So far, Christie isn’t feeling much love.
Known foe Rand Paul, the tea party Republican Senator from Kentucky, took a shot at Christie following requests for a comment from reporters after the bridge story broke.
“I know how angry I am when I’m in traffic,” The Hill reported Paul as saying. “I’m always wondering who did this to me.”
The men have been feuding since exchanging barbs last summer following federal funding recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy decimated parts of New Jersey, according to The Hill.
“Paul accused Christie of wasting money by putting himself in commercials touting the resurrection of the New Jersey shoreline after the storm, and Christie countered by labeling Paul a pork-barrel spender,” The Hill’s Keith Laing writes.
Christie also got under Paul’s skin when he said libertarians were “very dangerous” to the GOP on the issue of national security.
Republican media strategist Rick Wilson tells The National Journal that there’s “no love lost” between Christie and many of his more conservative colleagues, who have had him in the cross-hairs since his perceived chumminess with President Barack Obama following Hurricane Sandy and his vocal criticism of the tea party.
Like Paul, those politicians will likely view the scandal as an opportunity for payback.
“You’re going to see conservatives returning the favor he gave them over the last year,” Wilson said, tacitly adding that Christie “goes out of his way to be a d—k to other Republicans.”
The bridge-gate fallout may be seen as serendipity for other groups ready to bird-dog the super-size governor’s spot as a presidential front-runner, The Hill reports.
“I think there are three constituencies that benefit from Christie’s problems: One is the Democrats, two are the Republicans who don’t like him, and three are the potential Republican candidates who share his same space: Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan,” Ana Navarro, who worked on Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, told the newspaper.
Christie’s problems may be an unintended gift to Hillary Clinton as well, reports The Boston Herald.
“Hillary Clinton must be happy Christie’s woes have bumped her from the nightly news, especially after former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ revelation she only opposed the Iraq invasion for political reasons during her 2008 presidential bid. Whose scandal will voters remember in 2016?”
Others who could see a bump, according to the paper, are Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
But many on the inside say Christie’s forthcoming manner of handling of the scandal bodes well for the governor’s political rise.
Christie fired two of his top aides — Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Stepien — after learning of their involvement in the scandal via emails obtained by the news media.
The ousters “demonstrated the blunt force that Christie is willing to use to contain a crisis, even if it means exiling members of his innermost circle,” The Washington Post reported.
The governor is handling the mess in true Christie fashion: directly, a trait the country needs to see more, writes Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway in the National Review. While the scandal was surely not how Christie imagined his entré to the national stage, it gave him an opportunity to show the country his leadership style.
“Christie made a mistake, apologized, promptly removed those who erred, and resolved to make right a horrible situation,” Conway wrote. “After eight years of a president who displays no such skills, Americans may hope for a different kind of change.”
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By Melissa Clyne