Will Bridgegate impede Chris Christie's chances of seeking higher office? Not according to Chris Christie, it won't.
During an interview with CBS News’ Bob Schieffer at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Summit in Washington, on Wednesday, the relaxed New Jersey governor dismissively tossed his hand out and said, "as far as the impact [of the scandal] on my political future, I think it will have none, because I didn't do anything."
Christie noted the "circus" that erupted around the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge--which, being the busiest bridge in the world, resulted in such extreme traffic that people were calling 911--had a lot to do with his big November victory against the Democrats' sacrificial lamb, Barbara Buono. "You know, you get 61 percent of the vote in a blue state in November, and then, all of a sudden, a couple of staff people do something they shouldn't have done, I fire them, and this becomes the biggest story in the country for a couple months." Christie added, sarcastically, "I guess you guys weren't doing anything else down here [in Washington], so this is what needed to be focused on, right?"
By the time "decisions need to be made" about 2016, Christie said, "I think this will be a footnote."
The event followed Christie's remarks during his monthly radio broadcast on Tuesday, that should they both decide to seek the 2016 GOP nomination, running against Jeb Bush would not be easy.
In the late 1990s, Christie went on a sprint to prove his goodwill to the Bush family. He joined his then-law partner and longtime adviser, Bill Palatucci, in raising money for then-Texas Governor George W. Bush's presidential bid and drumming up support for Bush among Garden State Republicans. One New Jersey Assemblyman told me of how Christie and Palatucci flew him down to the Lone Star State to visit the Governor's mansion and acquaint himself with the future President.
Many say Christie's loyalty to Bush during that time is what ultimately secured him appointment as the the United States Attorney for New Jersey (uncommonly for a US Attorney, Christie, a securities and appellate lawyer, did not have any experience in criminal law).
Running against Jeb, Christie said, would "be stressful, because I consider Jeb a friend…And he's been a wonderful friend to me, especially during Sandy and the aftermath. You like to run against people that you don't like, not run against people that you do like and respect."
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that many Republican donors and fundraisers who had planned to support Christie were reconsidering, and looking toward Bush instead.
And that's not Christie's only problem. The national media has, in recent weeks, begun to take notice of the Garden State's disastrous finances. Politico reported on New Jersey's $807 million revenue shortfall and over $1 billion budget gap.
But New Jersey's economy is not, like Politico's headline says, Christie's "latest" problem--it has been a constant problem (one for which he doesn't deserve all the blame).
When Christie assumed office in 2010, the state's unemployment rate was just 0.1 percentage point below the national average.
In 2011, New Jersey ranked 47th in the nation in GDP growth.
And in 2012, as Christie traveled the state on what he called the "Jersey Comeback" tour, unemployment climbed steadily until, in September, it hit a 30-year high of 9.9 percent (at the time, close to two percentage points higher than the national average).
On Wednesday, Christie acknowledged his state's current financial woes, saying, "I'm trying in the last five years to fix problems that we've accumulated over the last twenty."
Should he decide to run in 2016, Christie has to hope that Republicans will respond better to his "I inherited this mess" argument than they have to the similar argument made by President Obama about the Bush administration.