At least one potential Republican in the 2016 presidential field is lending New Jersey Governor Chris Christie his full support: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who praised Christie’s handling of the George Washington Bridge scandal and said he believed the Governor’s case.
Walker, who spoke to the press at an event in Washington related to his visit to the White House on behalf of the National Governors’ Association, noted that he had spoken personally to Christie about the incident and trusted that he told him the truth. The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that Walker told the media that Christie told him personally “exactly what he said to the public, and that’s the reason to believe him.” He expressed full confidence in Christie’s ability to lead the Republican Governors’ Association and admired his two-hour press conference last week, saying he didn’t think he had “ever seen a politician spend nearly two hours in front of the media taking every question out there.”
According to CNN, Walker also praised Governor Christie for being “completely transparent” and for taking quick action on “removing the people who were not forthright with him.” Walker said that he did not anticipate the incident to “be a problem going forward.”
Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who was also at the press conference with Walker, called Christie a “great leader” and agreed with Walker that he would not be particularly hurt by the bridge incident in the eyes of national Republican leaders.
The support, particularly from Walker, is a stark deviation from the way many in the conservative community have reacted to the scandal. Most of the Republican Congressional delegation has been silent if not vague on the matter, with some Congressmen going to fundraising events with Christie but not giving a vocal statement of support. Conservative voices in the national press have been far more vicious in attacking Christie. With the exception of Karl Rove, pundits have questioned Christie from the beginning, looking back to Christie’s warm interactions with President Obama after Hurricane Sandy as a reason to have distrusted Christie from the start.
Governor Walker is in a position, however, that most pundits and public servants are not. He is in the same position Christie is in: a governor who is seen as a viable contender for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination. And his record is like Christie’s on steroids: Walker brought meaningful union and labor reforms to Wisconsin while battling a loud and vindictive far-left media, lacking of the cozy relationship that Christie has with New Jersey Democrats. He is one of the people in America that stands the most to gain from Christie’s star falling after this scandal. And yet, having always gotten along with the New Jersey Governor, Walker continues to support him publicly when so many on the right have refused to do so.
How “bridgegate” will affect Governor Walker, so many miles away, remains to be seen. But for now, he stands to gain from being courteous and supportive and offering Christie the benefit of the doubt.