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Bridge-Gate Muddies Gov. Chris Christie's Political Future

CubSporrong |
February 4, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The mythology of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has begun to unravel as the Republican party favorite faces increased scrutiny over the Fort Lee lane closure scandal (coined “bridge-gate” by members of the press). And whereas the fate of the potential Presidential candidate seemed so secure just months ago, Christie's future is now anything but certain.

Troubles began for the rising political star last year, when Gov. Christie and top aides allegedly created a four-day traffic jam beginning the morning of Sept. 9th, in political retailiation against the democratic mayor of Fort Lee, according to The New York Times.

Additionally, Gov. Christie has been accused of using Post-Sandy Relief Funds for his own advertisements rather than aiding the people of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.

Political Catoon of Christie caught in Bridge Gate Scandal by  Bob Jagendorf. (DonkeyHotey/Flickr)
Political Catoon of Christie caught in Bridge Gate Scandal by Bob Jagendorf. (DonkeyHotey/Flickr)

WATCH: Chris Christie Press Conference—Embarrassed and Humiliated

Once a frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Christie now finds himself at the center of a political discussion that could irrevocably damage his image.

Layola Maymount University graduate, and Republican Party of Orange County office manager, Matt Florer has openly questions the governor's efforts to feign ignorance. “Even if Christie truthfully did not know about the lane closure,” said Florer, “how does he ‘not know’ the US's busiest bridge is going to have to shut down a couple of its lanes for experiments, during morning rush hour?”

“Even if Christie did not know, it's his fault for surrounding himself with a ‘bad team’ that would make decisions like this,” Florer added.

READ MORE: Chris Christie Administration In A Jam

Mark Hannah, a former doctoral fellow at USC Annenberg and presidential campaign staffer for both John Kerry and Barack Obama, says the on-going political scandal “is potentially disastrous for Governor Christie's presidential aspirations.” 

“One thing this does, regardless of the outcome of the official investigations, is add fuel to the fire that is Christie's reputation as a hot-headed and vindictive politician. That political persona might be forgiven in certain parts of the country, like New Jersey, but it's exceedingly likely that it will turn off many voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, who are crucial to any candidate's primary victory,” said Hannah.

Richard Reeves, award-winning author and former chief political correspondent of The New York Times, also echoed Hannah's comments.

“It will certainly affect Christie nationally, because in the mail generation what used to be conversation can now be found in print -- and more will come out. In Jersey, not so much. In fact, someone told me that while Christie's national polls are dropping, he's holding his own at home and may even be getting better numbers than he had before this all happened,” remarked Reeves.

Fort Lee Mayor, Mark Sokolich speaks at a news conference on January 9, 2014. (MoD Digital/Flickr)
Fort Lee Mayor, Mark Sokolich speaks at a news conference on January 9, 2014. (MoD Digital/Flickr)

READ MORE: Richard Reeve's on Politics

SEE ALSO: Richard Reeve's on Chris Christie 

But the political scientists of tomorrow are less certain about the long-term damage to Christie's political aspirations.

USC Freshman Claire Cahoon defended Christie. “I think its really hard to judge if this will affect his political future because no one has been able to reach a verdict on if he was the one to actually shut down the bridges,” Cahoon said.

Cahoon wasn't the only one bullish on the New Jersey governor.

“I think that Christie’s allegations will cause his polls to go down but they may go up or someone else may come back on top,” remarked USC sophomore Abigail Slovick. “Polls will fluctuate in 2016 like they did in 2008.”

Alllegations over the misappropriation of Sandy funds from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer have also dogged Gov. Christie. Florer summarizes his opinion regarding Zimmer’s changing accusations against Christie as a “chance to kick a man while he is down.”

Professor Reeves agrees. “Christie has enemies, particularly in the Republican right wing. They hate him for cozying up to Obama after Hurricane Sandy. There are a lot of people who were waiting to be the second to kick him on the way down,” Reeves added.

WATCH: Feds Investigating Christie's Use of Sandy Relief Funds 

While the political maelstrom the Governor and his office has created has undoubtedly tempered political enthusiasm for Christie's presidential aspirations, the predictive forecast for the embattle governor is not unanimous. Politics are predictably unpredictable. It is unclear if "bridge-gate" will haunt Christie’s legacy or hurt his chances to run for the Republican nomination. Looking at the bigger picture, Christie's struggles may be just a blip on the rader.

That's something Florer agrees with; the savvy political operator believes the media attention surrounding Gov. Christie detracts from more important issues.

“Let's worry about the economy, health care battles, taxation, unemployment rate, US poverty, etc. Who cares about a stupid bridge being closed. Get over it. Soft.”

Reach Staff Reporter Cubby Sporrong here. Follow her on twitter here



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