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The Politics of Bridge-gate: Christie Fires Back

The intensity of the current attacks is ironic, Dworkin said “because the fact is that national Democrats, including the national party, did very little to support Barbara Buono when she was running against Christie for governor, but clearly whatever was holding them back then is not holding them back from going after Chris Christie today.”

Murray said the web ad put out by national Democrats attacking Christie on Bridge-gate would not have been made without input from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who runs the bistate Port Authority with Christie and is a potential Democratic candidate for president in 2016.

Fanning the Flames

Cuomo is playing a canny political game too, Murray said. “Cuomo said ‘I trust Christie,’ but he didn’t entirely refute whether Christie talked to him” about having Foye, the Port Authority executive director, back off on the intensity of his investigation, which now includes a probe by the Port Authority Inspector General’s Office. “Cuomo fanned the flames too,” Murray noted.

Furthermore, U.S. Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller (D-WVa), who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has launched his own probe of the scandal, requesting responses from the Port Authority to a series of questions. Rockefeller also has asked the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to investigate the alleged abuses at the Port Authority, which is a bistate agency with a charter issued by Congress when it was created in 1921.

Christie yesterday said he did not know Rockefeller well enough to assess whether his investigation was politically motivated.

But for Christie, this is just the beginning, Dworkin and Murray agreed. “This is a lesson for the Christie campaign,” Murray said. “You lose control of the story when you don’t have 100 percent control of the communications apparatus, and this story is now being driven by the Democrats and by the Port Authority. The fact that this is the first story that Christie hasn’t been able to control is testimony to how airtight this administration and the people around the administration have been.

“New Jersey is easy to keep under control: You have a press corps that needs access to the governor to do its job,” he said. “But as the circle gets larger as you move out on the national stage, you lose control. And the national press corps is not as concerned with how you treat them.”

Christie, who has been one of the Republican Party’s most popular speakers and fundraisers for the past two years, will be out on the national stage even more as chairman of the Republican Governors Association for 2014.

Christie recently campaigned in Idaho, Vermont, and Massachusetts, and he announced yesterday that Bill Stepien, who managed his recent reelection campaign and previously served as a deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office, would be joining the Republican Governors Association as a consultant, where he will be available to work closely with Christie on trying to help Republicans win gubernatorial races next year.

That will make Christie an even more important target for national Democrats. “The attention that this bridge issue has generated is only the beginning,” Dworkin said. “We should expect to see a lot of this in the next few years, including issues that have been previously reported on and all but ignored by the public. Everything is going to get brought back up and new attention will be given to it. That is the nature of running for president in the 21st century.”

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