Chris Christie

NJ Port Authority Chair Resigns, But Christie Says Everything's Just Fine, at Least for Him

Governor says bridge scandal won't affect presidential run, but polls are lukewarm


An internal investigation declared that Gov. Chris Christie had no involvement or knowledge in the George Washington Bridge scandal, that problematic incident where Christie's aides allegedly arranged for lane closures on the bridge to snarl up traffic as a form of political retaliation against a mayor who didn't endorse the governor. So everything's just fine!

Then today, David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey resigned, Christie announced in a press conference. From USA Today:

Federal prosecutors in New Jersey are looking at whether Samson helped steer $2.8 billion in construction contracts to companies his law firm represented as well as his role in the traffic jams that snarled Fort Lee, N.J., in the first full week of September.

Christie's press conference, lasted more than an hour, comes a day after an internal investigation that the governor's office had requested declared the Republican governor had no involvement in the politically motivated traffic jams last year.

Samson read the report and agrees with its conclusions, Christie said. Samson told Christie that he had no role in the closing of the George Washington Bridge lanes and Christie said he believes him because Samson was in a policy role at the port authority.

Democrats blasted the investigation as incomplete because three aides right in the middle of the scandal were not interviewed, which does seem a little problematic. But all three former officials, Bridget Kelly, Bill Stepien, and David Wildenstein, asserted their Fifth Amendment rights in the face of state's investigation. So how likely is some weenie internal investigation to get the goods? Samson also declined to be interviewed for the investigation, according to Politico.

Will it affect a presidential run?

Christie insists that the bridge scandal will not impact a potential run for presidency, should he decide to actually run. From The Hill:

"In terms of my decision-making, it's simply not the way I would make a decision," he said.

Instead, he'll ask himself whether a run is best for his family, and whether he has "something unique and particular to offer" to the presidency. If the answer to both those questions is yes, he said, he'll run.

Christie admitted, however, the scandal has taken a toll on his popularity, telling a reporter "yeah, sure," when asked about his falling poll numbers.

"But there's nothing that's permanent about that," he added.

Over at Nate Silver's new FiveThirtyEight, though, Harry Enten believes the scandal has hurt Christie's numbers and sees a GOP presidential field more split that it has been in 40 years.

In surveys conducted from January through March of the preceding midterm election year (so for the 2012 election, we're looking at polls from Jan. 1 through March 31 of 2010), the Republican atop the polls has always averaged at least 23 percent of the vote.

But not this year. Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a presidential aspirant in 2008, leads current polling with 14.8 percent. Even if we include Democratic nomination contests, 14.8 percent basically ties for the lowest leader on record (right near the 15 percent Mario Cuomo had in 1992).

At this time in the election cycle for the 2012 race, Mitt Romney was polling at 23.3 percent. For the 2008 cycle, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Condoleeza Rice were all polling more than 20 percent. Even Gerald Ford polled better than these guys. And at this point in the election cycle for 2016, Hillary Clinton is polling at 67 percent for the Democratic nomination.