Traffic Jammed

FORT LEE, NJ - DECEMBER 17: Traffic moves over the Hudson River and across the George Washington Bridge between New York City (R), and in Fort Lee, New Jersey on December 17, 2013. New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie has had to fend off allegations in a scandal involving the bridge. In September, two of Christie's top appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered the lanes on the bridge shut to traffic, causing days of gridlock in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Some Democrats have said that the move was political revenge against the town's mayor, Democrat Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Christie for reelection.
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
Jan. 9, 2014, 6:55 a.m.

Chris Christie‘s pres­id­en­tial am­bi­tions didn’t end this week. But the New Jer­sey gov­ernor has stumbled in­to the kind of scan­dal Re­pub­lic­ans have tried in vain to hang around the neck of his fel­low White House front-run­ner, Hil­lary Clin­ton. The former sec­ret­ary of State emerged from the Benghazi con­tro­versy re­l­at­ively un­scathed after Re­pub­lic­ans failed to dir­ectly im­plic­ate her in the death of four Amer­ic­ans at the North Afric­an out­post. The same can­not be said of Christie, who must an­swer for the vin­dict­ive ac­tions of his staff even if he wasn’t per­son­ally in­volved in last Septem­ber’s clos­ure of two traffic lanes on the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge. There’s no doubt this scan­dal is the first real tar­nish on his cam­paign.

— Demo­crats are seiz­ing the mo­ment. Their ef­forts to define Christie’s dur­ing last year’s reelec­tion bid were in­ef­fec­tu­al — after all, it’s hard to knock a Re­pub­lic­an when he’s on his way to a 20-point vic­tory in a deep-blue state. Now they have a ware­house of am­muni­tion to use. “What they’re do­ing now in 2014 is mak­ing up for lost time,” said one GOP seni­or strategist. “And they’re doub­ling their ef­forts.”

— After four years of us­ing his prox­im­ity to New York as an ad­vant­age, the gov­ernor is also dis­cov­er­ing the down­side of run­ning a state (par­tially) in the coun­try’s largest me­dia mar­ket. This would re­gister as a big story any­where, es­pe­cially if the man at the cen­ter of it was a lead­ing pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate. But that the traffic jam happened next to New York has raised the out­cry’s decibel level, and pushed cable net­works the give the story wall-to-wall cov­er­age.

— In­flu­en­tial Re­pub­lic­ans, who have glee­fully lined up be­hind the Jer­sey gov­ernor’s loom­ing pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, will watch closely how he handles him­self the next few days. His press con­fer­ence Thursday, in which he said the scan­dal had “em­bar­rassed and hu­mi­li­ated” him, ap­peared to be a good first step. Not to men­tion the swift fir­ing of former deputy chief of staff Brid­get Kelly and the ver­it­able ex­com­mu­nic­a­tion of former cam­paign man­ager Bill Step­i­en.

So far, most party eld­ers are stand­ing by the gov­ernor. But on a na­tion­al stage, the first real dam­age to Christie has been done.

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