GOP activists defend Christie at national meeting

Chris Christie may have been nearly 200 miles away, but his struggles in New Jersey buzzed through the hallways of a Washington hotel this week as hundreds of Republican officials gathered to debate the GOP's future.
AP Wire
Jan 26, 2014

Party activists from Mississippi to Massachusetts defended Christie's leadership, insisting this is no time to write his political obituary. But they also said it's far too soon to grant him presidential front-runner status.

Christie's popularity has fallen in recent weeks amid revelations that senior members of his administration helped create massive traffic jams last fall, apparently to exact political retribution against a Democratic New Jersey mayor. Additional allegations of political bullying have emerged as federal prosecutors and Democratic legislators probe the matter. Four people close to Christie have been fired or have resigned.

A roadblock for a possible presidential run? More like a speed bump, one activist said Friday. It could even help Christie among party conservatives by turning him into a martyr, said another. But he still faces resistance among some of those conservatives.

A senior Christie adviser at the Republican National Committee meeting suggested the high-profile governor has already overcome the worst of his challenges, although federal prosecutors have subpoenaed his recent campaign and Democrats are pressing an abuse-of-power investigation.

"Absolutely," adviser Bill Palatucci said when asked if Christie is through the toughest stretch. "It's a Democratic state — the Legislature is controlled by the Democrats — so I think they will attempt to drag it out as long as they can. That being said, the governor is very determined to continue his job as governor and do the things that he talked about in his inauguration speech."

The Republicans who gathered for the meeting, which wound up Friday, largely agreed that Christie has time to recover politically before the next presidential election, should he decide to run.

"We've got lots of people who can run and I think Christie is one of them," said Henry Barbour, a Republican national committeeman from Mississippi. "The last month hasn't been very good, but we're a long ways off from when people are going to be making those sorts of decisions."

Massachusetts committeeman Ron Kaufman, a senior adviser to 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, described Christie's challenges as "maybe a speed bump" being "overblown" by the media.

"The bottom line is that Chris Christie is still, if not the biggest, one of the biggest draws in our party. He's still one of the most popular Republican governors," Kaufman said.

Even some of the more conservative Republican activists — including those who have had concerns about Christie — downplayed the political impact of the New Jersey investigations. But that doesn't mean he is suddenly popular with the GOP's most passionate voters, who still bristle at the memory of his embrace of President Barack Obama in the days after Superstorm Sandy.

Some social conservatives also are upset that Christie didn't work harder to block same-sex marriage in New Jersey and that he recently signed legislation giving in-state tuition rates to New Jersey immigrants in the country illegally.

"If he's innocent, and I think he is, I think it's a big to-do about nothing," Republican national committeeman Steve Scheffler, of Iowa, said of the New Jersey investigations. "I think he's got some serious challenges in trying to convince the base that he's going to be a solid conservative and not somebody who's going to play too much ball with the Democrats."

Others predicted that Christie's problems could actually help him with skeptical conservatives should he become portrayed as a victim of an overly aggressive mainstream media.

"The consensus feeling is that he's been unfairly attacked," former Michigan GOP Chair Saul Anuzis said. "He could very easily become a martyr."

But Christie also faces pressing legal issues. His re-election campaign and the state Republican Party have less than two weeks to comply with subpoenas from federal prosecutors. His campaign has retained a Washington law firm.

The subpoenas from the U.S. attorney's office are evidence of an escalating criminal investigation into allegations that Christie's aides created traffic jams in a town with a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse his re-election campaign. Earlier in the month, the U.S. attorney for New Jersey said his office was reviewing the matter "to determine whether a federal law was implicated."

A state legislative committee also has issued subpoenas for correspondence from 20 Christie associates and organizations, due by Feb. 3.

Christie, meanwhile, is showing no signs that his troubles back home will affect plans to broaden his national network as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

The group announced this week that Christie will raise money in Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut and Utah in the coming months. The release of a vague travel schedule followed a call from recent Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli that Christie resign from the post.

Palatucci, said it's "wildly premature" to speculate on how the scandal will affect Christie's political future. He also dismissed the significance of polls suggesting the governor's popularity has fallen dramatically.

"Polls bounce around," he said. "You take them for what they are — which is a snapshot in time."

Comments

KrisHarris

I hope this will be already over. There should be some good solutions for this.

Mystic Michael

"...a big to-do about nothing"? Christie is being "unfairly attacked"? He's "a victim of an overly aggressive mainstream media"?

Yeah. Right. IF and ONLY if you happen to be a Republican apparatchik, determined to rescue Christie from political oblivion - and possibly a long prison term.

Anyone who's been following this sordid mess already knows that it's about WAY more than some petty vendetta against a small-town mayor over a missed endorsement. It's about illegal state manipulation of billion-dollar real estate and land redevelopment deals for private gain. It's about misappropriation of federal funds. It's about political interference in criminal justice proceedings in order to protect the governor's cronies from prosecution - and so much more.

It's about influence-peddling, it's about collusion, it's about extortion, it's about graft, and it's about official misconduct - on a grand scale. The evidence already is compelling, and only grows more so by the day.

Lest anyone assume that the New Jersey Legislature is conducting a partisan witch hunt, you should know that the Republican state lawmakers are nearly as eager to get to the bottom of this as are their Democratic colleagues.

If they really think they're going to resuscitate Chris Christie's presidential hopes at this point, Republicans are whistling in the dark. A year from now, Christie will be lucky to still be in office - much less ramping up for a run at the presidency.

Tri-cities realist

I sincerely hope you are right about his presidential run, at least we agree on that.

Wolverine49457

Are we really surprised to find a NE US politician may be corrupt? Let me rephrase that..a US politicial may be corrupt?

LIAMD

AP story, no more need to be said, just a liberal pipe line of spin and distortion

Mystic Michael

Eighty percent of the piece simply transcribes Republican talking points - unchallenged - in a desperate attempt to pull Chris Christie's butt out of the fire. Yet to you this is "liberal"?

Lanivan

For over a year now, right-wingers have outdone themselves following every lead and leaving no stone unturned, attempting to find something - anything - to pin on Obama. Something scandalous, something illegal, unethical, that demonstrates gross incompetence. Something they can obsessively and compulsively cry from the rooftops - "Obama's a fraud". They have failed.

But when confronted with this very scenario within their own party,....crickets. Or blame the libruls.

Or maybe there is just no there, there.

Tri-cities realist

Count me as one who does not support Christie, just for the record.

happycamper

you would trust guys like this as your president ?

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