Republicans have spent the week watching raptly as Chris Christie defended himself from corruption allegations. Speaking exclusively to Breitbart News, Newt Gingrich, GOP adviser Mary Matalin, and GOP strategist John Feehery have some advice for Christie: tell the truth, be himself, and get ready to go on offence once “Bridgegate” dies down.
Christie spent many of the previous months since the mysterious closure of the George Washington Bridge in September belittling or dismissing claims that the closure command may have come from his office and may have had political retribution as an objective. This week, with new emails leaking that prove that senior members of his staff were involved in closing the bridge for much more than a “traffic study,” the Governor apologized and fired the implicated members of his staff.
Gingrich, Matalin, and Feehery seem to agree that it is far too early in the 2016 presidential election cycle to count Christie out but that his response to the scandal in the next couple of weeks will be pivotal.
Gingrich, for one, sees the opportunity for the bridge scandal to actually elevate Christie’s status as a respected politician. “If Christie did not know, he will come out of this with an enhanced reputation for putting the public responsibility ahead of personal ties,” Gingrich told Breitbart News, adding, “it will be a sharp contrast with Obama’s inability to fire anyone no matter how bad the disaster.” Gingrich predicts that Christie will be “severely hurt” if he was not completely honest about the matter and is revealed to have ordered or known about the bridge lane closings.
Matalin – who has worked as an adviser to Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush – is more confident in Christie, telling Breitbart News that the scandal is such that “any voter who would be dissuaded from voting for Christie (should he be so privileged to secure the nomination) for having a traffic-havoc-creating staff two years prior [to 2016] likely wasn’t a Christie potential voter in the first place.” Matalin wagers that any time before the 2014 midterms is too early to determine on what voters will be ready to vote for candidates: “the critical issues facing the country will be revealed in the 2014 midterms.”
John Feehery, a longtime Republican strategist, offers some advice for Christie: “he should let this die down for a while (he should get out of the limelight) and then go on the offensive on some policy issues that unite the disparate elements of the Republican coalition.” While the bridge controversy “certainly complicates things,” Feehery tells Breitbart News that, for the average American, poverty and social mobility are the topics they want their public officials to advocate on. “Getting people back to work, even if they don’t want to go back to work, is right up Christie’s alley,” Feehery asserts. What’s more, he adds that Christie should not “worry about pissing off liberals. That will be good for him.”
It will be impossible to determine Christie’s future without at least a month of time to let the scandal settle or grow. The New Jersey Legislature continues to hold hearings on the matter, while there is yet time for polls and studies to come out showing how this affects Christie’s popularity nationally, in New Jersey, and in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
There’s always the pesky matter that Christie himself has not yet said whether he is tossing his hat in the ring for 2016. For now, the Governor has some damage control to do.