Is Chris Christie finished?
Will the scandal stop Christie? Photo: (John O'Boyle/The Star-Ledger/CORBIS)
There's little doubt that the revelations that aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) snarled traffic around the George Washington Bridge as political retribution is at least a roadblock to the governor's presidential aspirations in 2016.
But will it stop him altogether? It's too early to know for sure, but there's plenty of interesting speculation.
Jonathan Chait: "The e-mails prove that Christie’s loyalists closed the bridge deliberately as political retribution, not as a 'traffic study' as claimed. They display an almost comical venality bordering on outright sociopathy. And they will probably destroy Christie’s chances in 2016."
Brendan Nyhan: "On the one hand, it’s important not to overhype the significance of events like this to ordinary voters, very few of whom are paying close attention to the jockeying among potential 2016 candidates. The problem for Christie is that his principal asset in a Republican primary is an aura of electability. That aura may now start to dissipate along with his previously impressive favorable/unfavorable ratings, which were already looking more like those of a conventional politician. Moreover, widespread coverage of the bridge controversy could renew fears among elites about other potential skeletons in his closet and embolden GOP rivals and operatives who oppose his candidacy. Research by political scientists suggests that those party elites play a critical role in choosing the party’s nominee. If Christie is not seen as the most electable candidate, he’s unlikely to get much traction given his previous ideological heterodoxies."
Brad Phillips: "During the height of the Watergate scandal in the mid-1970s, Republican Senator Howard Baker asked a defining two-part question about Richard Nixon’s role: ‘What did the President know and when did he know it?’ Those two questions may well determine whether New Jersey Governor Chris Christie survives the scandal currently engulfing his administration."
Alec MacGillis: "I don’t believe this is necessarily the end of Christie’s presidential hopes... I am constitutionally averse to making predictions pro or con prospects with three years to go until the Iowa caucuses. And I’d also caution against overstating the facts at hand here: Christie’s people did not 'close the George Washington Bridge,' as some reports are now suggesting — they shifted two of Fort Lee’s three rush-hour access lanes to the main flow of Interstate 95 traffic, thus causing horrific backups in Fort Lee but easing the main flow onto the bridge from I-95. It was, in that regard, a devious surgical strike. But, we now know, too devious for its own good. There is something going down today — and it’s Chris Christie’s standing in the field of 2016 contenders."
Marc Ambinder: "The fact that Christie’s deputy chief of staff believed it was morally permissible to cause pain to innocents in order to retaliate against a perceived slight, without seeking his permission, and then refused to own up to it, tells us something about the culture that Christie creates around him. She assumed the boss would be okay with what she did. And so did many other Christie advisers, including his campaign manager. And since Christie denied having anything to do with the bridge study, he apparently has fostered a culture where it’s okay to lie to the boss in order to protect him."
Ezra Klein: "It’s entirely possible that Christie didn’t know very much about the bridge episode. It might just be the product of the culture he’s created, or permitted, to arise around him. What’s dangerous for Christie, though, is that now every political reporter in the country will begin believing rumors of his punishments and hunting down evidence of his retaliation. And things Christie was able to do before to wide applause — like berate a schoolteacher and then have his staff upload it to YouTube — will begin feeding a very different kind of narrative."
Mike Murphy: "My prediction? The whole thing will blow over. Sure, the media will howl for a week and the mayor of Fort Lee will spend the next two years darkly plotting ways to poison Christie’s good name in New Hampshire. But Christie has already blasted the main chortling staffer in question. The circus will move on."
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