The List: Gov. Chris Christie’s Top 10 Problems

Lee Keough | February 3, 2014 | Politics, The List
No doubt, the governor faces some tough times, but there may be unsuspected trials and tribulations waiting just ahead

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1. The governor could get caught in the crush if, like David Wildstein, other Christie insiders rush to the U.S. Attorney’s office to make a deal. It is unknown how many people the attorney’s office is talking to, but the joint legislative investigative committee has issued at least 20 subpoenas and is poised to issue more this week. Bridget Kelly, the deputy chief of staff who issued the order “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” has already fired her original attorney and retained another who is completely independent of the Christie administration. Indeed, anyone remotely involved seems to have “lawyered up.” If there is a smoking gun to be had, someone is sure to offer it up in exchange for immunity.

2. It’s breathtaking to watch local and national media join up to scour every corner of Christie’s life for a new angle on the story. The press — including NJ Spotlight — knows a feast when they see one, and they’re all scrambling for a piece. And for once, New Jersey’s proximity to the media capital of the world is not doing Christie any favors. There have been national press interviews with Christie’s high school baseball coach, and visits to the schools of Bridget Kelly’s kids. The relentless 24-hour television news cycle demands constant tidbits, and rewards any media outlet that can provide it. This isn’t a story that will die anytime soon.

3. The Band-Aid bills in the governor’s office could go through the roof, as Christie withstands death by a thousand cuts while constant revelations — even if inconsequential — come to the fore, thanks to a solid schedule of public legislative hearings. Unlike a law enforcement investigation, which takes place behind closed doors, these hearings will keep Bridgegate and the widening scandal in the public eye.

4. With three weeks to deliver a balanced budget, Christie’s already been warned by his partner in bipartisanship, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), that he’ll shut down the state government if Christie reneges on his promise to fund the public employees pension to the tune of $2.4 billion. The problem is New Jersey’s fiscal crisis has been building for decades and revenues for the current fiscal year are running in the red. It’s tough to see how a weakened Christie can either find the necessary funds or defend massive budget cuts that are sure to be unpopular with a large segment of the public.

5. The governor must deal with the shock of audiences booing, rather than applauding his pronouncements. Christie’s poll numbers have taken a deep dive in a matter of weeks, to pre-Sandy levels. The Rutgers Eagleton poll shows 64 percent view him as a bully and only 27 percent as trustworthy. But for Christie, the most disturbing evidence of his fall from grace must have been Saturday’s Super Bowl press conference in which he was booed for just showing up.

6. Christie’s characteristic straight talk — which can run to calling people “jerks,” “idiots,” and in the case of David Wildstein a mere “acquaintance” — makes it hard to reinvent himself as Gov. Nice Guy. It also makes enemies, some of whom who would like to pile on. In a time of crisis, Christie needs people to cut him a break.

7. You know things are bad when your rivals say they wholeheartedly support you. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) both defended Christie in his role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association over the weekend. The two are considered serious prospects for the Republican presidential nomination and they were responding to questions about whether Christie should remain as chair of the RGA. National Republicans are openly questioning whether Christie should remain in the showcase post for the Republican party — and whether he can be an effective fundraiser while battling a scandal.

8 There are fault lines — not just cracks — in the state Republican Party’s discipline. As leader of the minority, Christie has artfully pushed his agenda by commanding absolute loyalty from his fellow Republicans. Christie experienced pushback for the first time shortly after his re-election, when Republican state Senators rebuked him on his choice of minority leader — and that was before the Bridgegate allegations. With a circus-like atmosphere in Trenton and a controversial budget battle on the horizon, Christie may find it difficult to continue to count on those votes.

9. New initiatives like longer school days or major tax cuts are likely to be jettisoned. Although Christie is the master of the bully pulpit, which must be put to use for any new program, he won’t find it easy to use when he’s under siege.

10. President Chris Christie? Looking more unlikely every day.

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