- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2014

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.

“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.”

WEIGHTY MATTERS

It is an interesting juxtaposition: that would be former President Bill Clinton and Rick Warren, pastor of the 20,000-member Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. On Tuesday, the pair join forces in the name of diet and fitness during the Clinton Foundation’s 2014 Health Matters Conference in La Quinta, a not-too-distant resort town. The annual meeting of experts and analysts will ponder the nation’s health and wellness, or lack thereof.

Mr. Warren is bringing The Bible to the table. He’ll be introducing the “Daniel Plan,” a weight-loss and fitness regime that relies on biblical principles, faith and God’s support when the french fries and cable TV come a-calling.

“The Daniel Plan is not just another ‘diet. It’s a healthy lifestyle based on the Old Testament story of Daniel, who rejected the king’s rich food in order to honor God’s best for him and his friends,” the pastor’s website (Danielplan.com) explains.

“Daniel’s request was not about a diet plan; rather, he understood God wanted him to live a healthy lifestyle so he could serve God no matter where he was located. Healthy living requires faith as the foundation, trusting that God’s way is the best way, while following his prescription for your health.”

MITT METTLE

“A lot of people look back on that and say, ‘It must have been awful.’ I loved it. It was fabulous. It was a great experience. If you get the chance to run for president, do it.”

Mitt Romney describing the last months of his 2012 presidential campaign to 4,000 young single adult members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a conference in Tempe, Arizona, on Friday.

AN AUCTION OF TRUE HE-MEN

On the radar: The second annual “Officer and an Auction: Stars and Studs” extravaganza, and it’s all for the benefit of the GI Film Festival, a seven-day series of screenings and events across the country in May dedicated to the military experience, both in and out of the combat arena.

Up for auction: Military bachelors at the Embassy of Austria in the nation’s capital with all the trimmings, from open bar to sumptuous appetizers and desserts.

“Bring your highest bid to win a dinner date with the single gentleman of your choice,” organizers advise for the event, which is Friday.

See more here: Gifilmfestival.com

POLL DU JOUR

78 percent of Americans currently have health insurance.

76 percent have not tried to access the Obamacare sign-up website.

50 percent say an employer does not pay part of their health insurance, 45 percent say an employer does pay for it.

49 percent say what they pay for insurance is “about right”; 32 percent say it’s too much.

49 percent say the new health care law is a failure; 14 percent say it’s “more success than failure.”

2 percent say it’s a success.

45 percent say the law should be repealed, 27 percent say it should be “expanded”; 18 percent are unsure, 11 percent say the law should be kept as is.

11 percent say we will never really know for sure if health care reform is a success or failure.

Source: A YouGov/Economist survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 4-6.

Confused inquiries, helpful facts, balderdash to jharper@washingtontimes.com