Inside the Beltway: The Chris Christie image remains intact

The traffic turmoil of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not galvanize the American public, despite endless media coverage and pundit caterwaul. The public was far more interested in the polar vortex than Mr. Christie's “Bridgegate,” according to new data from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. And wonder of wonders, Mr. Christie may not have to worry about his image: opinion of the feisty official appears to be set in the public’s mind, and has not changed much despite the controversy.

And what is that image? Fox News analyst Brit Hume described Mr. Christie as “an old-fashioned tough guy” in a feminized world. The Weekly Standard had more details:

“Every state gets the political scandals it deserves and this one has New Jersey written all over it: a charismatic, domineering don demanding fealty from button men of both families,” the publication noted in editorial, adding, “The image of Chris Christie as Tony Soprano seems destined to persist — the loyal and aggressive underlings; the hard-nose for politics; the ambition to find a place for himself in the sun The good news for Christie is that America loved Tony Soprano.”

A few observant wags already have pointed out the irony that Hillary Clinton’s “hit list” of her Democratic enemies is also getting press with headlines referring to “Mafia”-style tactics. The identities were revealed in leaked excerpts from “HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton” by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes.

And about that Pew Research poll: only 18 percent of the respondents said they paid close attention to the Christie news coverage through Sunday, compared to 44 percent who followed the frigid weather and 28 percent who tracked news about the economy.

** FILE ** Rush Limbaugh.

Enlarge Photo

** FILE ** Rush Limbaugh. more >

“There also has been little short-term change in opinions about Christie: 60 percent say their opinion of Christie has not changed in recent days, while 16 percent now view him less favorably and 6 percent more favorably,” the Pew survey said. That figure is 69 percent among Republicans, 55 percent among Democrats and 60 percent among independents.”

Christie watchers, meanwhile, will chart public reaction to convoluted news reports that a federal investigation will now probe whether the governor wrongly used Hurricane Sandy relief funds to pay for tourism ads which featured the Christie family. His aides immediately countered that the Obama administration approved of it all.

AND WHAT ABOUT HILLARY?

The campaign for Hillary Clinton’s presidential run is underway, hit list or not. The persistent Virginia-based grass-roots group Ready for Hillary raised more than $4 million in 2013 thanks to many small contributions that arrived from 33,631 donors.

The organization says its next Federal Election Commission report later this month will show that the popular momentum for Mrs. Clinton’s yet-to-be-declared campaign is picking up: the group more than doubled the $1.25 million it raised during the first reporting period, and attracted 25,000 new contributors during the second half of 2013.

AND ABOUT HILLARY AND RUSH?

And yet another cultural moment? It would seem so. A new Times of London/YouGov survey asks respondents in a dozen populous nations who they “most admired” in the world. The question was open-ended rather than multiple choice, incidentally.

In the U.S., Pope Francis was in first place, followed by President Obama, Billy Graham, former President George W. Bush, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, the Dalai Lama, former President Bill Clinton, Rush Limbaugh, and in 10th place, Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Bush’s stature is of note. But there was some merriment among conservatives who noted that the talk radio host bested the former senator and secretary of State.

“Shock and dismay that the radio entertainer — not even television — the radio entertainer, Rush Limbaugh, is more admired in the United States than Hillary Clinton. That’s right. I didn’t even know this was going on,” Mr. Limbaugh told his audience upon being apprised of the findings. “There was no way I could stoke the poll. I didn’t even tell anybody anything. I didn’t even know it was going on.”

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