[Updated Jan. 10, 2014] The charismatic, blunt-talking governor of New Jersey only grew in national stature since hurricane Sandy devastated his state in 2012. Governor Christie’s landslide reelection in 2013 – in which he won a majority of the women’s vote, half of the Latino vote, and a third of Democratic votes – cemented his status as a top-tier candidate for 2016.
But as 2014 dawned, Christie’s prospects became clouded by “Bridge-gate” – the scandal over a massive traffic jam in September 2013 triggered when lanes from Fort Lee, N.J., were closed to the George Washington Bridge, in an apparent act of political retribution. After damaging e-mails surfaced, Christie fired a deputy chief of staff and derailed the political career of his former campaign manager. Two Christie allies at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey resigned last fall. A federal inquiry is under way. Reporters are still digging.
Christie has apologized profusely, and said he was not personally involved. But the scandal raises questions about his governing style. “I am not a bully,” he said in a Jan. 9 press conference. Still, Christie’s “Jersey” style may not play as well as it used to.
Before the scandal blew up, Christie topped the large potential Republican field in polls, though voter choices were spread thin. In short, the race is wide open.