Allies, supporters, and officials in the Chris Christie administration have all at one point or another blamed the New Jersey governor’s multiple scandals on partisan hackery. Politico claims that it is a clear strategy to turn the situation into a left/right turf war, one that has only a marginal likelihood of success.
Politico notes several Christie-affiliated Republicans who have spoken out against the investigation into his senior officials’ deliberate creation of a traffic jam on the busiest bridge in the country, as well as the federal inquiry into Christie’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno’s alleged strong-arming of Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer using Hurricane Sandy funds. Congressional candidate Steve Lonegan outrightly calls the affairs “a bunch of political hacks trying to tear down the image of a governor who’s been successful.” Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani calls it a “partisan witch hunt.” One anonymous source does not go so far, but is sure to highlight that in an intrastate New Jersey political fight, “these are not innocent truth seekers here.”
Politico compiles the many defenses of Christie throughout his various ordeals, concluding that those who defend him “write off the lawmakers, journalists and others looking into the scandals as entrenched partisans… [to] undermine future damaging revelations.” They also note the attacks from the Christie administration itself, including the scathing attack on MSNBC last week after the network broke the story of Zimmer’s accusations against Guadagno.
Politico is correct to note that many Republicans, particularly those on the national scale, are crying partisanship because so many of the alleged victims of Christie’s wrath are Democrats. And others are not just Democrats, but arguably the most notoriously Machiavellian and corrupt breed of Democrats in the nation: Hudson County mayors. Dawn Zimmer and Steve Fulop themselves may have spotless reputations so far, but their predecessors are in jail and barely survived getting put in jail, respectively. The mayors of this county, for one reason or another, seem to be constantly getting arrested or having their offices raided by the FBI. This background in explaining why so many New Jersey Republicans are especially wary of the charges brought up by Zimmer and Fulop is glossed over in the Politico piece–arguably because it might be too inside baseball to sell the narrative that Christie’s allies are simply trying to turn the scandals into a left/right issue.
Politico also fails to note that many of Christie’s defenders are Democrats as well–in some cases, Democratic mayors who border high-profile Christie enemies, like Mayors Zimmer and Fulop, of Hoboken and Jersey City, respectively. As Democrats like New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney quietly await the results of the investigation, other Democrats with a more outspoken firebrand streak, like Congressman Bill Pascrell, have accused half the party, derisively known as “Christiecrats,” of being traitors and failing to properly attack Christie because they have a monetary stake in his success. The rift began in the middle of last year, when Christie successfully attained the endorsements of several prominent Democrats (and, Politico notes, more than 60 Democrats in total) over his opponent and their partisan colleague, Barbara Buono. Buono, who may have more reasons than anyone else to despise the entire situation, has accused Christie of running a “paramilitary organization.”
The greater effort to create a partisan issue where there isn’t clearly one might help Christie keep the Republican establishment on his side. It also detracts, however, from legitimate Republican claims–like those of NJ legislature Republicans who argue that too many Democrats sit on the committee investigating the bridge scandal. Christie has passed the biggest immediate tests–his State of the State Address and Inaugural–but no major public national events have surfaced. When they do, those who supported him for partisan reasons will discover whether it was worth it–and whether Republican voters agree.