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Inside the Beltway: Charting Chris Christie’s uncertain future

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What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

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Journalists and pundits are still lining up to join the press buffet currently hosted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose five-day old bridge controversy has fueled much news media interpretation and fancy footwork. But "Bridgegate" also deflected public interest from myriad troubles in and around the White House following leaked revelations from Robert M. Gates' controversial new tell-all book — which will be finally on public bookshelves Tuesday. So says ace pollster John Zogby, who believes that President Obama benefited from Mr. Christie's traffic travails.

"I think Christie is in for a bad few weeks. Lots of scrutiny about his inner circle — why didn't he know, his alleged bullying and narcissism. And, like Thomas Nast and old Tammany Hall, the aides will start cannibalizing each other," Mr. Zogby tells Inside the Beltway.

"At the very least, he can't raise money or secure team-building commitments for 2016. He will continue to lose precious time for that. At the very most, those previously bullied will come out of the woodwork with their testimonials and his ability to govern — even his governorship — may be in jeopardy," he says.

"There are times when it is a benefit to be just another garden variety lame duck."

Meanwhile, a selection of headlines from the last 24 hours on Mr. Christie's uncertain saga:

"Chris Christie bridge scandal looks to many like Jersey as usual" (The Los Angeles Times), "New Jersey narcissist" (The Washington Post), "Early 2016 states still high on Christie — for now" (NBC News), "Chris Christie and the runaway high-speed presidency train" (The Daily Beast), "Another headache for New Jersey's Christie: class-action lawsuit" (Reuters), "Subpoenas expected for Chris Christie aides over bridge scandal" (ABC News), "The unanswered 'Bridgegate' questions" (Politico), and "Dems pile on Christie while ignoring Hillary's past" (PJ Media).

MR. BARBOUR ON MR. CHRISTIE

"The Justice Department, while they don't investigate the IRS for trampling on the rights of conservative groups, is going to be after this like a dog with a bone because it's all about politics," Haley Barbour says of the New Jersey governor's situtaation.

"That won't hurt Chris Christie with Republicans if you have the Eric Holder Justice Department chasing him around because that's what Republicans have come to expect with this administration. They always say it's somebody else's fault. They never investigate their own, but they always investigate the opposition," the former Mississippi governor observes.

"Yet the left continues to talk about this as vengeance and bullying and getting even. Getting even for what? The liberal media elite continues to treat this like the Lincoln assassination." Mr. Barbour concluded in a conversation with New Jersey's The Star-Ledger.

BUMPER PATROL

"Conservativism: the only thing that will save America."

— Bumper sticker spotted in Memphis, Tenn.

THE DEGREES OF MONEY

The final results are in for the class of 2013: bachelor's degree graduates are earning salaries that average $45,600 a year, reports Forbes magazine staff writer Susan Adams, who consulted data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a nonprofit that links college placement offices and employers.

But some degrees equal more moolah, a factoid of interest to parents and students faced with lingering tuition costs. At an average $62,600 a year, engineering graduates start out with the highest annual salaries. In second place, it's degrees in computer science ($59,100) followed by business ($55,100), communications ($44,600), math and sciences ($43,00), education ($41,00) and humanities and social sciences ($38,000).

It's tough out there, though, Ms. Adams also says that in 2013, only 29 percent of college students had landed jobs prior to graduation.

TEA PARTY TARGETS BOEHNER

Potential political woes are creeping into the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol. The Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC has declared House Speaker John A. Boehner a conservative foe, and is acting, well, accordingly. There's a public petition against the Ohio Republican, a $25,000 advertising buy and a new website — all coordinated by a group that claims to be the nation's largest political action committee for the grass-roots movement.

"John Boehner has declared war on conservatives," says talk radio host Rusty Humphries, spokesman for the new campaign. "Today we declare war on him. We intend to send a message to his fellow 'Republicans In Name Only' that such ideologically bankrupt leadership must come to an end."

Mr. Humphries points to consistently lower favorability ratings for the GOP in recent polls.

"Voter identification with the Republican Party is at historic lows. And no wonder. The Republicans don't stand for anything except surrender," he says. "By collecting 1 million petition signers by Jan. 31, we will show John Boehner, the liberal media, and every other congressional sellout that the tea party is serious about returning America to greatness."

AND MORE BANE OF BOEHNER

Mr. Boehner has other critics, meanwhile: Judicial Watch and a host of conservatives, retired military brass and the surviving family members of the four Americans killed during the terrorist attack on Benghazi. The coalition has sent the speaker a letter with a singular request:

"We call upon you to act now and create a Select Committee on Benghazi to investigate all aspects of the United States involvement in Libya, to include, but not be limited to the attacks of September 11, 2012," reads the missive signed by Tom Fitton, the watchdog group's president; along with Allen West; Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness; and David Horowitz, president of Freedom Center.

The 78 signers want the committee to address more, though.

"It must now also include the protracted coverup the American people, the families of the fallen and those with loved ones serving overseas have endured. The new committee must have subpoena power, capable staff and members from both parties who are committed to finding the truth, not playing politics," they write.

"While the White House repeats false and misleading information, you continue to ignore claims, documented by Rep. Frank Wolf, of intelligence officers being intimidated with multiple, punitive polygraph examinations and harassing nondisclosure agreement demands. If Benghazi is 'phony' why are intelligence officers being threatened not to speak and subjected to polygraph exams? Why do you stand by passively?" the group demands.

POLL DU JOUR

• 38 percent of Americans self identify themselves as conservatives; 70 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats agree.

• 35 percent of independents also identify as conservatives.

• 34 percent of Americans overall identify themselves as moderates; 23 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats agree.

• 40 percent of independents also identify as moderates.

• 23 percent overall identify themselves as liberals.

• 5 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats agree.

• 20 percent of independents also identify as liberals.

Source: A Gallup tracking poll of 18,871 U.S. adults aggregated from 13 polls conducted in 2013 and released Friday.

• Annoyed observations, press releases, happy talk to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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