Christie’s Lost Luster

Posted on January 23, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

By James Scott

With his resounding reelection as governor of a blue state on Nov. 5, it was hard to imagine New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s national profile getting any bigger. Well take a look at him now.

There’s no point in rehashing the details of the scandal called bridgegate, since you undoubtedly know those already. The question that’s on everybody’s mind right now, though, is how will the scandal that’s engulfed his administration as New Jersey governor affect Christie as frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.

Polls show most people believe the embattled governor when he says the bridge closure was carried out by aides without his knowledge. Still, in a hypothetical race against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, he has lost ground and now trails the former secretary of state by 13 points.

But it could be the Republican Party that has the most to lose if Christie flames out. Yes, he has his flaws as we know better now than ever, but he also had, and still has, the potential to bring a dose of moderation to a Republican party that is being driving by an extremist minority on right-wing.

They used to be called New Jersey Republicans, or Northeast Republicans, moderate GOP politicians who were fiscally conservative, but strayed from the right wing on social issues like guns, abortion and the environment. Think Tom Kean or Christie Whitman.

Even as Christie has sought to maneuver himself a bit to the right, he is still light-years away from the tea party. This kind of moderate thinking is exactly what the GOP needs going into 2016, after two straight defeats at the polls. Clearly, the party needs to take a closer look at who’s manning the tiller and seek a more centrist course. Christie’s more moderate voice was refreshing and it was being heard.

But it’s kind of hard to be a national leader when you’re the go-to butt of jokes on late night television and 20 of your top aides are under subpoena to testify about a scandal that has you at its center.

One thing the governor needs to do now if his White House ambitions are to survive is hire some nationally-tested professionals to shape his image going forward. His loyalty to his Jersey chums is fine, but isn’t that part of what got him in his predicament to begin with?

As we’ve seen, the scandal that started in Fort Lee is not just a New Jersey scandal. It has attracted national, even international, media attention. Its dominance of the Sunday morning talk shows has been remarkable, overshadowing a range of worthy national and international stories.

But we’re a couple months into this thing and, yes, the media attention should start to fade soon, if it isn’t already. If the scandal ends with those aides, and so far there has been no indication otherwise, Christie’s national profile and his White House aspiration could well survive.

A lot of GOP heavyweights already have said they see little harm coming from the scandal, if Christie is telling the truth. There’s a lot on the line for Christie, but even more for a Republican Party that is desperately in need of a New Jersey Republican.

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