Politico: Chris Christie 'Diminished' Since Bridgegate Scandal
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is trying to keep a strong face to the accusations flying around his administration of various forms of corruption. Politico reports this week
that Christie is struggling to fulfill governorship duties and has appeared "more sober" to onlookers, while relying heavily on family to get by.
Politico spoke with several insiders to develop a feeling for what life is like in Governor Christie's office. The answer: tense and tiring, as staffers fight off the feeling that they have lost control of the situation and are "operating in new and unsettling territory." Rather than spend hours and weekends working on policy initiatives or aiding with new legislative proposals, the publication reports, staffers must now work to fully respond to the subpoenas from the New Jersey State Legislature and the U.S. Attorney related to the September closing of lanes of the George Washington Bridge that lead to suburban Fort Lee, NJ.
The mayor of that town, Mark Sokolich, claimed this week that he was approached for an endorsement of Christie and received many favors from Trenton despite being a Democrat, contradicting his initial claim that no one had asked him to endorse the Governor for reelection.
The threat to the New Jersey governorship is that many staffers who should be working to help the people of New Jersey are now caught up in legal battles, and communication can be chilled as few know what conversations will see the light of day as lawyers investigate. That leads to what attorney Elliot Berke told Politico was an unfortunate "bunker mentality" that stifles productivity in the office.
The cumulative effect of the investigations has been to make of Christie's something less than his original, brash personality. The Governor, claim several sources, no longer oversees every individual response to new developments in the scandal (or any other scandal, including accusations that he has misused federal Hurricane Sandy funding to the benefit of political allies). He did not approve the email sent to supporters attacking David Wildstein, a former college classmate and Port Authority official responsible for closing down the bridge lanes.
Christie is also becoming a less promising political character, one that national Republicans are increasingly stepping away from. One Republican donor, Al Hoffman, tells Politico that the cracks in Christie's veneer are scaring donors away from potentially supporting him in 2016. "We want to make sure that he gets through this crisis, and then we'll jump on board," he asserted. Christie's closest advisors, wife Mary Pat and brother Todd, are said to be livid at how quickly Republican allies seem to have abandoned the Governor.
Whether Republican allies – apart from the vocal minority still supporting Christie, like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani – will once again support Christie on a national level depends heavily on the results of the multiple ongoing investigations into his administration.
It also depends on whether he will be able to fulfill his duties as the head of the Republican Governors Association while the investigations continue.
A number of Republicans, paramount among them former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, have called for Christie to resign from his position, as it creates an atmosphere in which other Republican candidates must contend with the cloud of scandal surrounding Christie while they run for office. On his most recent trip in this capacity to Texas, neither current Texas Governor Rick Perry nor Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott met with Christie, a sign they wanted no association with the New Jersey executive. Politico notes, however, that Christie's administration has not discussed, according to sources, the possibility of Christie's being removed or stepping down from that position, as doing so might be seen as a sign of defeat.
Christie has at least a year to sort out his situation, but the outlook, as details surface, continues to be doubtful at best that he can put together a national campaign by 2016. Should he be found guilty of lying at any stage of the Bridgegate saga, his governorship could join his presidential candidacy in jeopardy, tossing state politics into a whirlwind rare even for a state with politics as theatrical as New Jersey.