Since last November, Democrats have suggested that a complicated story involving traffic patterns on a bridge connecting New Jersey and New York demonstrated that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — the nominal, early front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination — is a vindictive bully unfit for higher office. On Wednesday, Democrats got some major ammunition for that effort in the form of emails from senior Christie administration officials that unveil a coordinated effort to punish a political rival and contradict denials from Christie and his aides that such an effort existed.
It turns out that Christie’s close aides and senior officials on his reelection campaign were involved with or aware of plans to choke off access to the George Washington Bridge, the northernmost of the Garden State’s three Hudson River crossings into Manhattan, at the foot of the bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., the Bergen Record reported Wednesday. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, was the apparent target of the campaign, and the snarled traffic is viewed by some as payback for Sokolich’s failure to endorse Christie for reelection. Christie won easily at the ballot last November, earning the support of some of the state’s Democratic officials along the way.
Christie has denied that his team was involved in changing the traffic patterns and that they were politically motivated, so Wednesday’s revelations pose threats to his image and credibility. Voters approved when Christie took on Democrats and their allies on the state budget, and they applauded when he berated members of his own party who opposed federal aid for Hurricane Sandy victims.
But Christie’s outspoken style poses risks for him in a presidential campaign. And a tale about intentionally diverted traffic, stranded commuters, and secret political payback might sound more “Jersey wiseguy” than presidential to a national audience. The Democratic National Committee is already out with a Web video — its third on the subject — in hopes of capitalizing on the growing controversy.