A Tough Month for Two Former Rising Stars

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves the Borough Hall in Fort Lee where he apologized to Mayor Mayor Mark Sokolich on January 9, 2014 in Fort Lee, New Jersey. 
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
Jan. 21, 2014, 11:48 a.m.

It’s been a tough month for the two Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors who once epi­tom­ized the GOP’s re­sur­gence in the Obama era.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­por­ted Tues­day that fed­er­al pro­sec­utors have charged former Vir­gin­ia Gov. Bob Mc­Don­nell with il­leg­ally ac­cept­ing lux­uri­ous gifts from a busi­ness­man who sought spe­cial treat­ment from state gov­ern­ment — the cul­min­a­tion of an in­vest­ig­a­tion that con­sumed the ex-chief ex­ec­ut­ive’s fi­nal months in of­fice. Mc­Don­nell, whose wife has also been charged, main­tains his in­no­cence, but the re­port is an­oth­er blow to a Re­pub­lic­an lead­er once thought to be on Mitt Rom­ney’s vice pres­id­en­tial short­l­ist.

For the two-man Re­pub­lic­an class of 2009, that’s been a re­cur­ring theme this month. Mc­Don­nell’s GOP gubernat­ori­al com­pat­ri­ot, New Jer­sey’s Chris Christie, has been knocked side­ways by rev­el­a­tions that a mem­ber of his seni­or staff vin­dict­ively ordered the lane clos­ure of a bridge con­nect­ing New Jer­sey and New York — a scan­dal now known as “Bridgeg­ate.”  The Jer­sey gov­ernor has denied any dir­ect know­ledge of the or­der, but an on­go­ing in­vest­ig­a­tion by state law­makers threatens fur­ther dam­age to his im­age. (Not to men­tion the pos­sib­il­ity of a fed­er­al scru­tiny in not one but two areas.)

Mc­Don­nell and Christie, both former pro­sec­utors, were each elec­ted in Novem­ber of 2009 in vic­tor­ies that con­ser­vat­ives hailed as the be­gin­ning of their polit­ic­al comeback, after steep losses in 2008. The two can­did­ates’ fisc­al-minded mes­sages won over mod­er­ate voters in states where Barack Obama had won just a year earli­er. Their styles differed — Christie was far brash­er than the re­l­at­ively pla­cid Mc­Don­nell — but both were im­me­di­ately anoin­ted Re­pub­lic­an stars and the kind of can­did­ates who could one day seek the party’s pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion.

So it’s ap­pro­pri­ate that the two men who rose to prom­in­ence to­geth­er should fall sim­ul­tan­eously. To be sure, Mc­Don­nell’s plight is far more ser­i­ous than Christie’s: He faces the pro­spect of sig­ni­fic­ant jail time, and even out­right ac­quit­tal likely won’t be enough to re­sus­cit­ate his polit­ic­al ca­reer. Christie, for now, re­mains the party’s pres­id­en­tial front-run­ner.

But the bridge scan­dal has tar­nished his im­age na­tion­ally and wor­ried sup­port­ers that more rev­el­a­tions will fur­ther un­der­mine his stand­ing. Back in 2009, that’s not the way it was sup­posed to go for Christie or Mc­Don­nell.

It’s been a tough month for the two Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors who once epi­tom­ized the GOP’s re­sur­gence in the Obama era. The Wash­ing­ton Post re­por­ted Tues­day that fed­er­al pro­sec­utors have charged former Vir­gin­ia Gov. Bob Mc­Don­nell with il­leg­ally ac­cept­ing lux­uri­ous gifts from a busi­ness­man who sought spe­cial treat­ment from state gov­ern­ment ““ the cul­min­a­tion of an in­vest­ig­a­tion that con­sumed the ex-chief ex­ec­ut­ive’s fi­nal months in of­fice. Mc­Don­nell, whose wife has also been charged, main­tains his in­no­cence, but the re­port is an­oth­er blow to a Re­pub­lic­an lead­er once thought to be on Mitt Rom­ney’s vice-pres­id­en­tial short­l­ist. For the two-man Re­pub­lic­an class of 2009, that’s been a re­cur­ring theme this month. Mc­Don­nell’s GOP gubernat­ori­al com­pat­ri­ot, New Jer­sey’s Chris Christie, has been knocked side­ways by rev­el­a­tions that a mem­ber of his seni­or staff vin­dict­ively ordered the lane clos­ure of a bridge con­nect­ing New Jer­sey and New York ““ a scan­dal now known as “Bridgeg­ate.”  The Jer­sey gov­ernor has denied any dir­ect know­ledge of the or­der, but an on­go­ing in­vest­ig­a­tion by state law­makers threatens fur­ther dam­age to the gov­ernor’s im­age. (Not to men­tion the pos­sib­il­ity of a fed­er­al in­vest­ig­a­tion in not one but two areas.) Mc­Don­nell and Christie, both former pro­sec­utors them­selves, were each elec­ted in Novem­ber of 2009, vic­tor­ies con­ser­vat­ives hailed as the be­gin­ning of their polit­ic­al comeback after steep losses in 2008. Their fisc­al-minded mes­sages won over mod­er­ate voters in states where Barack Obama had won just a year earli­er. The two men’s styles differed ““ Christie was far brash­er com­pared to the re­l­at­ively pla­cid Mc­Don­nell ““ but both were im­me­di­ately anoin­ted Re­pub­lic­an stars and the kind of can­did­ates who could one day seek the party’s pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion. So it’s ap­pro­pri­ate that the two men who rose to prom­in­ence to­geth­er should fall sim­ul­tan­eously. To be sure, Mc­Don­nell’s plight is far more ser­i­ous than Christie’s: He now faces the pro­spect of sig­ni­fic­ant jail time, and even out­right ac­quit­tal likely won’t be enough to re­sus­cit­ate his polit­ic­al ca­reer. Christie, for now, re­mains the party’s pres­id­en­tial front-run­ner. But the bridge scan­dal has tar­nished his im­age na­tion­ally and wor­ried sup­port­ers that more rev­el­a­tions will fur­ther un­der­mine his stand­ing. Back in 2009, that’s not the way it was sup­posed to go for Christie or Mc­Don­nell.It’s been a tough month for the two Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors who once epi­tom­ized the GOP’s re­sur­gence in the Obama era.The Wash­ing­ton Post re­por­ted Tues­day that fed­er­al pro­sec­utors have charged former Vir­gin­ia Gov. Bob Mc­Don­nell with il­leg­ally ac­cept­ing lux­uri­ous gifts from a busi­ness­man who sought spe­cial treat­ment from state gov­ern­ment ““ the cul­min­a­tion of an in­vest­ig­a­tion that con­sumed the ex-chief ex­ec­ut­ive’s fi­nal months in of­fice. Mc­Don­nell, whose wife has also been charged, main­tains his in­no­cence, but the re­port is an­oth­er blow to a Re­pub­lic­an lead­er once thought to be on Mitt Rom­ney’s vice-pres­id­en­tial short­l­ist.For the two-man Re­pub­lic­an class of 2009, that’s been a re­cur­ring theme this month. Mc­Don­nell’s GOP gubernat­ori­al com­pat­ri­ot, New Jer­sey’s Chris Christie, has been knocked side­ways by rev­el­a­tions that a mem­ber of his seni­or staff vin­dict­ively ordered the lane clos­ure of a bridge con­nect­ing New Jer­sey and New York ““ a scan­dal now known as “Bridgeg­ate.”  The Jer­sey gov­ernor has denied any dir­ect know­ledge of the or­der, but an on­go­ing in­vest­ig­a­tion by state law­makers threatens fur­ther dam­age to the gov­ernor’s im­age. (Not to men­tion the pos­sib­il­ity of a fed­er­al in­vest­ig­a­tion in not one but two areas.)Mc­Don­nell and Christie, both former pro­sec­utors them­selves, were each elec­ted in Novem­ber of 2009, vic­tor­ies con­ser­vat­ives hailed as the be­gin­ning of their polit­ic­al comeback after steep losses in 2008. Their fisc­al-minded mes­sages won over mod­er­ate voters in states where Barack Obama had won just a year earli­er. The two men’s styles differed ““ Christie was far brash­er com­pared to the re­l­at­ively pla­cid Mc­Don­nell ““ but both were im­me­di­ately anoin­ted Re­pub­lic­an stars and the kind of can­did­ates who could one day seek the party’s pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion.So it’s ap­pro­pri­ate that the two men who rose to prom­in­ence to­geth­er should fall sim­ul­tan­eously. To be sure, Mc­Don­nell’s plight is far more ser­i­ous than Christie’s: He now faces the pro­spect of sig­ni­fic­ant jail time, and even out­right ac­quit­tal likely won’t be enough to re­sus­cit­ate his polit­ic­al ca­reer. Christie, for now, re­mains the party’s pres­id­en­tial front-run­ner.But the bridge scan­dal has tar­nished his im­age na­tion­ally and wor­ried sup­port­ers that more rev­el­a­tions will fur­ther un­der­mine his stand­ing. Back in 2009, that’s not the way it was sup­posed to go for Christie or Mc­Don­nell.
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