Embattled Gov. Chris Christie heads to Florida next week to raise money and promote GOP incumbent Gov. Rick Scott – the first test of Christie’s appeal for fellow Republicans since the eruption of a political revenge scandal involving the busiest bridge in the nation.
“It won’t affect my ability to work at the [Republican Governors Association] at all, no,” Christie vowed Thursday of the George Washington Bridge traffic controversy that’s engulfed his administration, New Jersey newspaper The Record reported.
The National Journal first reported the fundraising trip Friday, which includes appearances with Scott at a series of fundraisers next Friday in Naples, and next Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Orlando.
The Palm Beach event will benefit the RGA, and will be held at the home of sugar baron Pepe Fanjul Jr., the Palm Beach Post reported.
“I just hope he doesn’t snarl up the traffic on the Pensacola bridge,” joked state Senate President Don Gaetz, one of the highest ranking Republicans in Florida, the National Journal reported. “Obviously Gov. Christie has got some image problems right now but I think he has a lot of admirers in Florida. People like his New Jersey style, and hopefully he will be of some positive reinforcement to Gov. Scott.”
Christie, who had said neither he nor anyone in his administration knew about a plot to jam up traffic on the George Washington Bridge to exact political revenge on the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., on Thursday announced he had fired the aide who wrote an email saying: “Time for traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
The subsequent lane closures caused colossal jams on the bridge last September.
He also asked one of his top campaign advisers to end his consulting work with the RGA and to withdraw his name from consideration for chairman of the New Jersey GOP.
Christie’s traffic scandal has fanned speculation about its impact on his White House ambitions, but it’ll be his fundraising “prowess” that will gauge whether his appeal has waned, the National Journal noted.
“We always welcome Gov. Christie to Florida,” state House Speaker Will Weatherford, another top Florida Republican, told the National Journal. “An unfortunate situation has taken place and he’s caddressed it. He’s not hiding from it. I think he handled it well.”
As a top target for Democrats in the largest battleground state in the country, Scott’s reelection is viewed as one of the marquee races of 2014, the National Journal reports.
The Democratic front-runner, Charlie Crist, served as the Republican governor before Scott. He left the GOP after his 2010 Senate campaign soured and later became a Democrat.
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By Cathy Burke