With many of the RNC’s most prominent members gathered for its annual winter meeting, CNN asked Republicans how they felt about the scandals engulfing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association. Like Chairman Reince Priebus, most stood by their man.
Reporter Peter Hamby noted that the atmosphere at the winter meeting was not particularly favorable to questions about Christie. The accusations against Christie – from aides shutting down the busiest bridge in the country for political retribution to extorting a mayor using Hurricane Sandy funds to the allegation that he closed a Motor Vehicle Commission office to spite the Democrats – have caused his popularity on a national level to plummet, putting Christie behind Hillary Clinton once more in a hypothetical 2016 race. Hamby noted that Christie’s name, “uttered here and there in a few hushed hallway conversations, usually surfaced only when reporters brought it up,” and many declined to comment on it.
A number of Republican establishment insiders did comment, and, for the most part, they seemed to echo chairman Reince Priebus’s support for Christie’s remaining at the helm of the RGA. Many, like former Priebus rival Saul Anuzis, contended that Christie’s future depended entirely on his honesty: “If he is really involved, when all the facts come out, it will be the nail in his coffin.”
Others, including one Republican operative who spoke off the record, seemed little surprised at Christie’s struggles because Christie has a “persnickety personality, which he kind of cultivated,” that rubs many people the wrong way. Still others among the more hesitant to support Christie noted that his origins had much to do with the story, such as Massachusetts national committeeman Ron Kaufman, who emphasized that “politics in New Jersey is tougher than most places.”
However, that was about as negative as Republican representatives were willing to get with a journalist. Several of those interviewed noted that they had full faith Christie would recover. Three of those interviewed pivoted the conversation to Christie’s possible 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, who has a scandal with a death toll attached to her name. If Clinton could survive the Benghazi terror attack under her watch, when her office ignored the pleas of help from the Libyan embassy, a traffic jam would look mild in comparison.
For some like Republican activist Dennis Lennox, it looked small even in absolute terms, who told Hamby that “Chris Christie is still the odds-on favorite for the Republican Party in 2016,” poll numbers aside. Given the two years between then and now, it is possibly true, but Christie has months of subpoenas and legislative hearings – and a potential Congressional investigation – to wade through between now and then.