The Bridgegate scandal has given Governor Chris Christie, a major case of heartburn and if one more revelation comes forth about Christie's behavior in office, that could be the end of his career as the head of the RGA and his entire political career. Republican activists are still actively supporting him so far, but that could change very, very quickly.
On the Sunday talk shows this past weekend, top Republicans insisted they still back Christie. Republican governors too are publicly pledging their support. But as one Republican source told me: “It’s not about who is saying that on the Sunday shows. It is about who is not, and who is not saying anything.” This person added: “Everything could change in a heartbeat. There are a lot of close races. There is a lot at stake. There comes a point when this is about governors other than Chris Christie.”
Indeed, several Republican fundraisers and strategists who have worked closely with the RGA, have told me that many of them are privately worried that Christie’s controversies are only going to get worse over time and he is going to harm the electoral chance of his fellow Republican governors. They fear, as one puts it, that the embattled Christie’s alignment with the RGA “will bring down the Republican party with him.”
Christie is not in a place of strength at this point and he knows it. Before the Bridgegate scandal erupted everything was coming up roses for the portly governor. He had just won reelection with a big margin, the Super Bowl was being played in his backyard and as the head of the RGA, he was going to go to all the influential Republican states and would be able to use fundraising for them as a vehicle for his own presidential aspirations. Plus, being in charge of doling at huge amounts of money would increase his power exponentially within Republican circles.
Chris Christie has made no secret that he's all about himself and that is not helping now in his time of need. Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party shared some intimate thoughts with Dave Weigel here about Christie and then also talked with Murray for this article.
I wanted to speak with talk to Dawson because last week he told Slate’s David Weigel that Christie might at some point consider his resigning his RGA chairmanship: “This all has the potential to affect the RGA and governor’s races if it grows any more legs, like it has with the Hoboken mayor.”
Dawson pointed out that the governor of his own state, former South Carolina governor Mark Stanford, resigned his RGA chairmanship the day after admitting an extramarital affair: “Now, nobody’s called for that from Christie. But if we’ve got two, three more scandals, that’s the concern I’ve got.”
A senior Republican party strategist who shares Dawson’s views told me: “He [Christie] does what is best for him, not the party. We saw that with his convention speech. (Christie gave a speech less extolling Romney than himself, endlessly frustrating Mitt Romney’s aides.) We saw that with the storm. (Christie angered Romney supporters by so publicly identifying with President Obama during the cleanup.) Would he voluntarily leave the stage? He is not voluntarily going to do anything to help someone else if it hurts him.”
Ken Cuccinelli, who lost the Virginia governorship recently wasn't shy when he suggested that Gov. Christie should resign from the RGA. Other Republicans arent' shying away from their feelings either.
Paul Munisteri, the chairman of the Texas Republican party, counts himself as a strong Christie backer. But even he told me today: “If it turns out that conclusive evidence comes to light that he knew in advance that the lane clotures [on the George Washington bridge] were done for political reasons, that would surely put his position in jeopardy. I do not know that is the case and I would be surprised if that was the case. But people would change their minds.”
And other prominent Republicans may have a even lower threshold: just one more serious revelation about Christie’s behavior in office could very well prove a bridge too far for Republicans – and maybe even a permanent roadblock for his presidential ambitions.
Chris Christie is so toxic at this point he was kept under wraps in Florida by his buds when he recently raised money for Rick Scott:
With the Republicans keeping Christie and Scott under wraps, with no public events and nothing open to news coverage, Wasserman Schultz attracted a large media crowd: a couple of dozen reporters and TV camera operators. Seven TV cameras recorded her comments.
“It’s great to be here to welcome Chris Christie to the Sunshine State. It’s not every day that we have a governor visit Florida whose scandals burn so brightly they outshine even those of our own scandal plagued governor, Rick Scott.
Chris Christie is hanging on by a thread, and that's a good thing.