The Chris Christie Campaign is Not Sunk Yet


The emerging scandal over Chris Christie’s staff causing traffic jams does not come close to dooming him for 2016.

Earlier today there was a major break in the scandal surrounding allegations that New Jersey Governor Christ Christie’s staff played a major role in causing traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey by shutting down lanes on the George Washington Bridge in an act of political revenge. The traffic jams where allegedly created in response to the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, refusing to endorse Christie for reelection in 2013.

Christie, a promising contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has long portrayed the allegations as a bit of a joke, but newly released emails show that his deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly emailed a Christie appointee at the Port Authority telling him “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” A little while later a number of lanes on the bridge were shut down on the first day of school.

While this scandal certainly is not good for Christie (the governor) or Christie (the presidential aspirant), a number of commentators have unfortunately jumped up to claim that this dooms Christie’s chances for the White House. New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait went so far as to claim that these new allegations, “…will probably destroy Christie’s chances in 2016.”

I really doubt this. First of all it’s not clear if this scandal will even reach Christie himself. Kelly has already resigned and it is quite possible that this whole fiasco was just some overzealous staffers trying to please their boss without his knowledge or okay. It’s also possible that Christie will be able to claim this and nobody will be able to prove him wrong. In fact it’s not even clear what laws might have been broken by causing a traffic jam out of political spite.

Secondly, past campaigns are filled with scandals that were supposed to doom candidates that never really played out. Indeed for every scandal like the sex scandal that doomed Gary Hart’s 1988 bid, there were scandals that failed to pan out like the Iran-Contra Affair that supposedly would end George H. W. Bush’s chances and Gennifer Flowers’ allegations that supposedly would end Bill Clinton’s aspirations as well.

Finally, it’s not at all clear that party actors, the folks who actually decide nominations, will necessarily abandon Christie in mass for even a fairly serious scandal. I doubt he could survive being criminally indicted, but if he was just forced to do a staff shakeup and apologize this could easily be forgotten in about a month. In short, the allegations don’t help Christie, but he certainly isn’t out of the hunt yet. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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-Photo by Mel Evans/AP

About John K. Anderson

John Anderson is a former student of political science and political professional who worked on a variety of campaigns in the Midwest and on the East Coast. He currently lives in Minneapolis where everyone is friendly and there are lots of lakes. He blogs at longwalkdownlyndale


  1. I would like to add that the media tends to lean heavily toward the Democratic view point. Many celebrities seem to be Democratic themselves. There is a difference in how news is reported about Dems vs Republicans in our country and this should be kept in mind as we gather facts on both Dems and Republicans.

  2. PursuitAce says:

    Of course he knew about it. The phrase “plausible deniability” was invented by politicians. Don’t fall for this crap. If he didn’t know that would mean he’s too stupid to be in the position he’s in. But he knew. They all know. They always do.

  3. wellokaythen says:

    The issue is really about how long the public’s political memory is. It’s not so much about how badly he behaved as it is the *timing* of his bad behavior.

    In the U.S. today, voters’ memories are amazingly short. If he made that traffic jam in January 2016, then yeah, it would doom him for 2016. But, 2016 is two years away. That’s a millennium for us American voters. I remember when Joe Biden’s political career was totally doomed because of plagiarism in one of his speeches. He became a running joke, he was doomed to obscurity, etc. Then everyone totally forgot and now he’s Vice President…..

  4. Wake up and smell the coffee. Rachel Maddow broke yesterday that given the date of the “traffic” email from his deputy chief of staff, the obvious reason Christie did this is because a fight with NJ senate dems over his state Supreme Court nominee who was rejected the day before that email was sent. The senate dems leader represents Fort Lee. Christie called them “animals”. He’s toast.

    • John K. Anderson says:

      Oh, I’d agree it’s certainly possible he’s toast, but it’s certainly possible he’s not. Only a few months ago we were hearing that Obamacare’s website problems meant 1. the law would be repealed, 2. Obama’s presidency was effectively over, 3. the Democratic Party was doomed for all time, 4. liberalism was also effectively over.

      It takes time to see how things shake out.

      • Once people realize the real reason for this retribution was the very ugly scandal around the way he treated the Supreme Court nominees, and the video surfaces of him calling dems ‘animals’, the TV commercials will write themselves. He will never ever make it through a GOP primary in 2016. Frankly, given how badly this scandal stinks and the direct links to his administration, the real question is not whether he will run for Pres in 2016, but whether he will even be able to finish his term as NJ Governor. This is not just some petty political scandal. This is some serious illegal activity, worse than the things Christie made a name for himself prosecuting in NJ before he was Gov. He’s toast. It’s just a question of when.

        • Yeah..because we know how reliable political TV commercials are.

          Rachel Maddow shared a “theory”. She has no proof of what the real reason was behind the situation. Hopefully only time will tell what is really true.

          Considering that Christie has had a darn good run, and the biggest dirt that the press or Democrats where able to drudge up on him regarded his weight, which many petty jokes and name calling went around from the Dems, may I remind you Bill, I suspect there are some who are just jumping at the bit to make “theories” and hypothosize before we have any real facts regarding the situation. Wayward employees aren’t exactly something new and wouldn’t be so far fetched.

          Save us if Christie is toast. He was one of the better guys NJ ever had. And I hope he has a long and prosperous political career.

          As for the supreme court judges, Christie exercised his justly Governortorial rights and did not reappoint Judge Wallace to his position.The press made a big deal about who was “black” and who was “white” in this situation, implying that by color of one’s skin, you can or can not be up to the same rules and regulations as everyone else. Christie did not agree with many of the positions of Judge Wallace, again, as is his right not to, and as Governor, he is fully in the legal limits of not upholding any judge to any position, when it becomes his or her time, that does not agree with the direction he wants the court to go in.

          I actually find this quite refreshing because he is one of the only Governors in NJ to actually exercise this right. Previously, it seems that most Governors went the way of what was “status quo” simply letting judges pass through the 7 year mark to life terms without so much as a “boo”.

          The NJ Supreme Court is very well know for being one of the oldest “old boys club networks” and has unfortunately found a way to manipulate what should be the duties of the NJ State Legislature by dictating to the Legislature how much money the state needs to spend on various programs, Something Judge Wallace had a big hand in. Considering that NJ remains one of the highest taxed states, this is a huge problem between the state’s taxation problem and the power the NJ Supreme Court took upon it’s self to take over for.

          Christie did not agree with Wallace’s position on issues, especially the issue of doing basically the job of what the Legislature should be doing, and did not want to reappoint him, this is completely legitimate.

          In response, the Dem run house, through a tantrum and refused to do any work on the Supreme Court issue instead letting it sit, and sit and sit because they want the Supreme Court to remain “Democratic”. So instead of bucking up and doing their jobs, doing what is best for the state of NJ by having a full 7 Supreme Court count instead of the 5 it’s currently working on, they are more worried about their personal political power.

          Lastly, the actual quote of what Christie said, “ I was not going to let her loose to the animals.” But please don’t act like Dems are innocent bystanders, I could start piling on the quotes.

    • You haven’t proven that CHRISTIE did this. And I’m amused you think the word “animals” even registers on the outrage scale in political invective. Our President has used the term “teabaggers” to describe members of the opposing party… That’s pretty nasty yet he has survived without any damage.

      If Christie goes down it will be because someone is able to tie him directly to the scandal; not for using a relatively mild term to denounce political rivals in the midst of a fight…

      If he is definitively tied to the lane closure- then I agree. He shouldnt be allowed to continue as Governor and should be prosecuted.


  1. […] revenge, broke as a major national news story. I’d still argue that this ongoing scandal doesn’t automatically doom Chris Christie’s chances at becoming the Republican nominee for president in 2016, but the […]

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