New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is working his way back into Republicans’ good graces, and all he had to do was get Democrats mad at him.
After being denied a speaking spot at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Christie has been invited this year. Meanwhile, fellow Republicans have fanned out to the political talk shows to defend the embattled governor, rallying around him in his fight against both federal and state probes.
“We are very excited to announce that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will speak at CPAC 2014,” said Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, the host of the annual gathering, which will take place in early March just outside of the Washington Beltway.
It’s a stunning turnaround for a man who a year ago was facing heated criticism for having hugged President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and then went on to bash fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill until they approved sending tens of billions of dollars to New Jersey to recover from the storm — with the money tacked onto the federal deficit.
He also took heat when he refused to take a tougher stand against same-sex marriage and when he signed a bill granting young illegal immigrants the right to receive in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.
But now, faced with an investigation by state Democrats into the George Washington Bridge scandal, and another probe by a federal inspector general into a Hurricane Sandy marketing contract, Mr. Christie is once again feeling GOP love.
John Feehery, a GOP strategist, said Republicans are lining up behind Mr. Christie because they feel like he has gotten a raw deal from the media.
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Mr. Feehrey said.
After one conservative, former Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, said Mr. Christie should resign as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, the pushback was strong.
“I think he ought to stay there,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the previous RGA chairman, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
And Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice-presidential nominee, said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that Mr. Christie is “a friend” and a “fantastic governor.”
“I don’t think he should step down because nothing has been proven, and you always give a person the benefit of the doubt in those kinds of situations, in my judgment,” Mr. Ryan said.
Mr. Christie has been operating under a cloud since last month’s revelation of emails that suggest his administration forced a traffic jam in Fort Lee, causing backups on the heavily-traveled George Washington Bridge, in order to exact political payback.
Last week the attorney for David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who ordered the mid-September lane closures, raised new questions about what Mr. Christie knew about the traffic jams, suggesting his client has evidence that refutes some of the governor’s denials.
In response, the Christie administration suggested the media is on a witch hunt and dinged Mr. Wildstein’s character — highlighting, among other things, that when he was 16 year old he sued over a local scholar board election and a high school teacher accused him of “deceptive behavior.”