Chris Christie, still one of the hottest names in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination chase, heads to Washington surprisingly secure in his job as New Jersey governor and in his post as chairman of the 29-member Republican Governors Association — despite the “Bridge-gate” scandal still unfolding back home.
There is not the ominously deafening silence from the party structure that often presages a politician, caught in the middle of a scandal, deciding it’s time to throw himself under the bus for the good of the party.
“I think he’s doing fine, but of course I’m not privy to all the details,” former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican Party chairman, told The Washington Times.
A big reason Mr. Christie is hanging on despite a relentlessly bad press is that, in his job, money is the measure of the man.
“He’s bringing in big money for the 36 governors elections this November, which is the job of an RGA chairman. So unless something surfaces to show he was directly involved in the bridge tie-up, Republicans aren’t going to call for his resignation from RGA,” former RGA Executive Director Clinton Key told The Times.
One of those “never before” places that Mr. Christie’s in-your-face “Joisey” charm has turned into a financial honey pot for Republican governors lies across the Hudson River. In New York, donations of $250,000 a person have poured into the RGA’s campaign account, fellow Republicans say.
As Mr. Christie prepares to ensconce himself temporarily in the nation’s capital for the winter meetings of the NGA and the RGA next week, his fellow Republicans are of one mind on his “Bridge-gate” affliction. Since it broke out Jan. 8, they say, it has been distracting but not fatal. None of his fellow GOP governors has given the slightest hint publicly of wanting Mr. Christie to step down, nor is there back-channel gossip about trying to nudge him out.
The lack of talk about the scandal is significant in part because many of Mr. Christie’s peers, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, all potential 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls, would benefit if the New Jersey governor fell from — or was pushed off — the list of leading candidates.
The only top-tier 2016 nomination possibility who has been noticeably lukewarm about Mr. Christie’s role in “Bridge-gate” has been Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican.
“It’s an unsettling charge. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s unsettling,” Mr. Paul said this month.
On the upside for Mr. Christie, experienced Republican campaign helmsmen agree that even those not particularly enamored of Mr. Christie feel that he has given himself 9 feet of rope to hang himself politically. Any interference in the process is not worth the risk of a Christie retaliation or a loyalists’ backlash.
Whatever the reason, each of Mr. Christie’s potential 2016 rivals has explicitly patted the RGA skipper’s back, even while he has been taking on water, with results of the latest investigation into his role in the scandal yet to come.