Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Pivotal Year Ahead for Christie

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A Pivotal Year Ahead for Christie

Article excerpt

THE BEST THING about teaching - and writing - about politics is that it is always changing. Each day, week and year brings a new set of issues worth discussing and debating. The year 2015 provides no exception.

Among the hottest issues we'll be watching is the continuing unfolding of the George Washington Bridge lane closures affair. While it would appear that Governor Christie has put this embarrassment away (for now), the U.S. attorney's report, which is likely to be issued soon, will provide an enormous amount of water cooler conversation.

First is the issue of indictments: Will there be any, and, if so, who will be indicted? Who is being indicted matters the most because conventional political wisdom holds that if Bill Stepien, Christie's former chief of staff, is indicted, there would be little to no risk that the loyal staffer would fail to protect his former boss, even if it meant sitting in the federal pen for a few years. But if underlings such as Bridget Anne Kelly or David Wildstein are indicted, there could be trouble. Christie's swift move to throw Kelly under the bus in the immediate aftermath of the scandal and his characterization of his relationship with Wildstein (kind of like: I was the cool kid and we let the dork hang out with us once in a while but he wasn't really our friend) would do little to discourage Kelly and Wildstein from accepting deals that would include prosecutorial immunity on certain charges in exchange for evidence of the involvement of higher-ups.

Many people believed that there was no such evidence that would link Christie to prior knowledge of the scandal, but the frequency of text messages sent to the governor by current Chief of Staff Regina Egea during the December 2013 legislative hearings into the matter now have many asking if, in fact, there may be a smoking gun. Or at least some damning texts.

Impact on presidential run

The outcome of the U.S. attorney's investigation has a direct impact on the other huge political topic that will dominate the early part of this year - whether the governor will throw his hat in the ring and try to secure the Republican nomination for president. All of his moves - how he raises money, the policies he prioritizes and supports, where he travels - indicate that he intends to run. Only three obstacles might prevent him from running: If Jeb Bush commits full-in, Christie faces an enormous uphill battle claiming to be the only moderate. Bush has admittedly more familial baggage, but Christie, with the lane-closure situation and his own less-than- presidential antics, has more baggage of his own, which would inevitably be used against him by his GOP competitors. …

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