Scandal-Plagued Chris Christie Begins GOP Fundraiser Blitz
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has a long way to go before restoring the national trust after his senior staffers were caught orchestrating a major traffic jam for political retribution. Many Republican leaders are remaining silent, however, as the Governor begins a weekend chock full of fundraiser appearances around the country.
Christie's weekend begins today with an appearance at a fundraiser for Steve Lonegan, the former Republican Senate candidate who lost to Cory Booker earlier this year and seeks to succeed Rep. Jon Bunyan, who is retiring. Christie's decision to fundraise and publicly help Lonegan is new in their relationship, as Christie remained mostly removed from Lonegan's Senate campaign. Lonegan instead counted on the aid of Tea Party leaders like Sarah Palin and Mark Levin to headline rallies and generate support for him.
Lonegan seems to have put that all behind him, however, and appears to be looking forward to having Christie attend his fundraiser. Lonegan's team did not respond for comment from Breitbart News, but Lonegan himself told Buzzfeed this week that he was a bit surprised and impressed that Christie had not canceled on him despite "shit hitting the fan." He phrased his vocal support of Christie somewhat differently to the Star-Ledger: "I was inspired by the governor's transparency in bringing the details of the situation to light, as well as his swift action to hold accountable those that were responsible."
Lonegan is an exception as a New Jersey Republican vocally supporting Christie rather than keeping quiet through the storm. Rep. Leonard Lance, alone among New Jersey's Republican Congressional delegation in giving the press effusive quotes on Christie, is also expected at tonight's fundraiser – but so are Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen and Scott Garrett, who have both remained silent on Christie's scandal.
Those two Congressmen, along with Rep. Frank LoBiondo who denied any knowledge of Bridgegate but otherwise did not comment, appear to be taking the route of remaining as far out of the fray as possible while benefiting from Christie's star power as they approach the midterm elections.
Christie faces a much different scenario at the Lonegan fundraiser than he does in Florida over the weekend, though the pattern of Republican governor support looks very much like that of his state Republican colleagues. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker praised Christie's handling of the bridge scandal yesterday, adding that he trusted that Governor Christie did not lie at his extensive press conference. However, Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is hosting Christie at a fundraiser of his own this weekend, has not commented on Christie's scandal yet.
Breitbart News reached out to Governor Scott for comment on Christie's visit, who directed us to the Republican Party of Florida. Spokeswoman Susan Hepworth told Breitbart News that the party is "grateful to have the RGA Chairman in town this weekend to do some events benefiting Rick Scott’s re-election campaign. Governor Christie has taken responsibility for the situation and we are looking forward to having him down in Florida.”
Breitbart News's attempts to reach the Republican Governor's Association, which Christie heads, for official comment have not been returned at press time.
The reserved commentary from so many fronts speaks volumes of the relationship between Christie and the Republican establishment. A report in Politico today notes that insiders say Christie's chairmanship of the Republican Governor's Association is "not in jeopardy" in large part due to Christie's known ability to generate money and popularity with donors. Republicans who need the funds – Republicans like Rick Scott who find themselves down in the polls to the likes of Charlie Crist – are willing to risk a little scandal for the star power and the money it brings.
Recent polling indicates that they may be correct in their wager, at least when it comes to the very unique breed of political animal that is the New Jersey voter. Christie's constituents actually think of him as less of a "bully" now than they did before the bridge scandal, according to a Quinnipiac poll out this week, and by and large believe he had nothing to do with closing the George Washington Bridge lanes.
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, Christie's popularity has actually gone up according to a PPP poll since the scandal erupted. If the hubbub over the bridge scandal subsides, and the subsequent legislature investigations discover no improprieties on Christie's part, Christie might just live to see another day politically.
If he does, he still has to contend with an investigation into potential misuse of Hurricane Sandy funding by his administration – which is to say, the next two years will be very long ones for Christie. However, there is a non-zero chance that he will survive, and money-starved Republican candidates are willing to bet on their man – at least for this weekend.