Mr. Cuccinelli said the Bridge-gate scandal swirling around the Christie administration could lessen the New Jersey governor’s ability to promote Republican ideas and might implicitly tie other GOP candidates to the affair.
“I think just from the perspective of setting aside this as an issue in other races, it makes sense for him to step aside in that role,” Cuccinelli said.
Cuccinelli is a conservative former Virginia attorney general who lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Old Dominion’s gubernatorial race last fall. He trailed McAuliffe substantially through much of the campaign, but in the end his margin of defeat was only about two and a half percentage points.
He’s the first prominent party figure to call for Christie to step down from his RGA post, or at least the most prominent so far.
Why is he speaking out? It’s possible this is political payback, just like the Fort Lee traffic jams ordered up by Christie aides.
Last November MSNBC’s Chuck Todd reported that Christie declined a request made by prominent GOP conservatives to campaign for Cuccinelli. (He also turned down invitations to stump for party standard-bearer Mitt Romney, if you remember.) Other possible 2016 nomination hopefuls, such as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida, did turn up to try and help Cuccinelli. As a relative moderate, Christie perhaps did not want to associate too closely with the tea party-backed Virginian. In the end he was conspicuous by his absence.
So Cuccinelli could be aiming a kick at somebody when they’re down.
There is little chance of Christie taking this suggestion seriously, however, at least for now. There’s no evidence he knew that top aides were conspiring to block lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. Absent further developments, for Christie to quit his party post would be to admit that the whole thing is a big deal and that his ability to raise money and campaign for other Republicans has been damaged, writes Allahpundit on the right-leaning Hot Air site.
“Once he admits that, he’s done in 2016. So he’ll press on and hope it either goes away or turns him into some sort of martyr of lefty media to Republican audiences,” Allahpundit writes.
The real danger for Christie here is that Cuccinelli’s dig might be the most public indication yet of a growing wariness about the New Jersey governor in the GOP’s rank-and-file. That would be particularly damaging if opposition grows among moderate and establishment Republicans, Christie’s natural base in the party.
Slate political reporter Dave Weigel says that he has started to hear concerns similar to Cuccinelli’s among Republicans, regardless of their personal affinities. He quotes Katon Dawson, a former GOP chair in South Carolina, to that effect.
“To most folks in my profession, it’s governorships we pay attention to. This all has the potential to affect the RGA and governor’s races if it grows any more legs,” Mr. Dawson told Weigel.
Christie was elected head of the RGA last November. The group enters the 2014 political cycle with a least $45 million cash-on-hand to fund political combat.
"In a critical year with 26 governor's races, Republican governors welcome [Christie's] leadership as Chairman of the RGA, and recognize that his record of accomplishment, broad political appeal, and tireless work ethic will be a tremendous asset in helping to win elections," said the organization's executive director Phil Cox last year.