New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has been having a rough time since winning a landslide re-election in November.
First, he unsuccessfully tried to oust the state Senate's Republican minority leader (who happens to be the son of one of his own allies). Then he appeared to walk back his past support for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, drawing ire from critics who accused him of having endorsed the policy solely to help his campaign.
Now he's caught in an even more bizarre scandal in which his allies at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey allegedly closed a portion of the nation's busiest bridge for five days in September as political payback, causing horrendous traffic jams for one town and its intransigent mayor.
The scuttlebutt started over the summer when Mark Sokolich, mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, declined to follow the lead of dozens of other Democrats around the state and endorse Christie's re-election bid. Soon after, two of the three access lanes to the George Washington Bridge — which connects Fort Lee to New York City — mysteriously shut down, snarling traffic and turning the town into a parking lot.
The state claimed the closure was part of a traffic study. One problem: Multiple Port Authority officials subsequently testified that there was no such study.
Rumors that the closure was petty retribution percolated for months, with the Christie administration flatly denying the connection as "crazy." Then last week, David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who ordered the lane closures, abruptly resigned, once again igniting the lingering scandal. And now another official has stepped down: Bill Baroni, Christie's top appointee with the Port Authority.
Baroni came under fire after the Wall Street Journal unearthed emails in which he urged New York's top Port Authority official — the agency is jointly run by the neighboring states — to keep the story under wraps.
So were the resignations a sign that the closure was politically motivated after all? Nope — at least not according to Christie, who claimed Baroni's resignation had nothing to do with the bridge debacle.
The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, isn't buying it. Here's the DNC's ad accusing Christie of throwing a temper tantrum and shutting down the bridge.
That fits neatly into the narrative of "Christie the hot head." But it's highly unlikely that the story will seriously jeopardize Christie's political aspirations. If anything, conservatives might come to like him more if they think he did something to mess with that dreaded metropolis of sin, New York City.