It's Happening: GOP Is Rallying Around Embattled N.J. Governor
Subpoenas are hitting his closest aides and allies. His approval rating in New Jersey has taken a modest hit. And suddenly, politicians long afraid of him are speaking out about his revenge-style of governing.
But headed into a three-day weekend, there's some good news for Christie. The conservative base of the Republican Party, long skeptical of the New Jersey governor because of his bro-hug with President Obama after Sandy, is beginning to rally to his side. Here's some evidence:
1) Christie's political advisers tell NPR that national donors who have long coveted a Christie presidential candidacy are calling to express support, not skepticism. According to Bill Palatucci, the governor's confidant and link to the national donor base, interest in Christie fundraisers spiked after the scandal broke. Christie is headlining events this weekend in Florida for Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Governors Association, and Palatucci said in recent days he has gotten about two dozen calls for people looking to buy tickets at the last minute.
2) Other potential presidential candidates have taken a wait-and-see approach to the scandal. He has not been publicly attacked by other Republican governors or potential Republican presidential rivals, indicating that Christie's stature within the party is not yet weakened.
3) The all-important conservative media are actually coming to Christie's defense. It's as if he earned some street cred by getting dragged through the media gantlet. Fox News' Sean Hannity used the opportunity to slam "liberal media" for not pushing harder on the Benghazi situation: "You can rest assured that if Christie does go on to run for president, this issue will be mentioned by the liberal media in virtually every conversation or analysis. If Hillary Clinton runs for president, will Benghazi or the host of other scandals similarly coincide with their analysis? Highly doubtful." Hannity said that compared with the evasive Clinton, Christie handled his scandal with "moral courage." And Rush Limbaugh, who once went so far as to call Christie a "Democrat," also rushed to the governor's defense this week after liberal rocker Bruce Springsteen and late-night host Jimmy Fallon made fun of Christie in a "Born To Run" parody.
4) Polls don't indicate that Christie's standing as the Republican presidential front-runner has diminished. A New Hampshire poll from Public Policy Polling taken after the release of the "Bridgegate" documents indicate Christie has a larger lead among Republicans than he did in September. And 14 percent of GOP voters said it made them like him more.
But about those subpoenas. As Christie takes off for warmer climes, the Assembly committee investigating the Bridgegate scandal has made public some of the subpoenas it has issued, including one to the custodian of records at the governor's office. Others being ordered to turn over correspondence related to the bridge include:
-- Bill Baroni, former Port Authority Deputy executive director
-- Maria Comella, Christie deputy chief of staff, communications
-- Michael Drewniak, Christie press secretary
-- Regina Egea, Christie chief of staff
-- Christina Genovese, Christie director of departmental relations
-- Charles McKenna, Christie chief counsel
-- Evan Ridley, Christie aide
-- Colin Reed, Christie deputy communications director
-- Kevin O'Dowd, former Christie chief of staff/attorney general nominee
- David Wildstein, former Port Authority director of interstate capital projects
-- Bill Stepien, Christie campaign manager/former deputy chief of staff
-- David Samson, Port Authority chairman
Listen to the report here.
Matt Katz covers Gov. Chris Christie for WNYC and New Jersey Public Radio.