The past couple of days have been rough ones for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Recently, the press revealed that a cabal of Christie's underlings created traffic bedlam allegedly to infuriate a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse the New Jersey Republican during his re-election bid. What probably started out as a nasty, tasteless prank is now transforming into a major news event with substantial legal and political ramifications. According to the January 10, 2014 online edition of CNN, a "group of citizens has filed a class action lawsuit against Christie" because of this wrongdoing. Meanwhile, some attorneys contend that the prank amounted to a serious crime. After all, a woman perished during the needless gridlock. For years, Chris Christie appeared to be The Politician Who Could Do No Wrong. That air of invincibility seems to be gone. Right now, he looks as vulnerable as President Barack Obama.That doesn't mean that he's finished politically, though. Most likely, in the long run, Chris Christie will emerge relatively unscathed. He has a reputation for honesty, and there's no evidence that he knew anything about the destructive prank beforehand. He's apologized for the actions of this cabal, and he's been very forthright with both investigators and the media. Some Democrats insist that he should resign precisely because he didn't know what was going on. This is hypocritical on their part; it's like blaming President Obama for the NSA scandal. Christie is handling this crisis well, and, before long, the clamor will begin to die out. In other words, Chris Christie will remain popular, and it's still very possible that he could win the 2016 Presidential Election.
Let's look at the data. According to a Fox News poll that was conducted on December 27, the current New Jersey governor will become the 2016 Republican nominee--if he wants it. He leads Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Paul Ryan by 4 points each. Conservatives may scoff at Christie's long record as a pragmatist, but, in the end, Republicans nominate moderates--and not ideologues--for the Presidency. According to a CNN poll that was conducted on December 26, Christie would defeat Hillary Clinton in the General Election by two points: 48% to 46%. This poll should cause in Democrats much dismay since Hillary Clinton has always been the unofficial frontrunner. No other Democrat is as well-known and respected as Hillary, other than her husband, Bill, who insists that he's retired from politics. Elizabeth Warren is not well-known enough nationally to be the Democratic nominee, and neither is Andrew M. Cuomo. Joe Biden is famous enough, but he's also too liberal for many Americans, as a 12/12 Public Policy Polling survey suggests. In this survey, Christie would trounce Biden, 49% to 35%. At this stage, Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat who can possibly defeat Christie, and even she will face a terrible, uphill battle against him.
Obviously, these surveys are at least a couple of weeks old, and a lot can change in a couple of weeks. How will Christie's scandal affect him politically? In the long-term, it shouldn't affect him very much at all. His popularity rating might decrease in the next month or so, but it should bounce back quite nicely. After all, Christie's scandal is ultimately a small, local one without national or international ramifications, quite unlike Obama's NSA scandal.
Thus, Christie's political career has been tarnished by scandal. He and Hillary Clinton, then, have a great deal in common. Ms. Clinton's career has also been marred by scandals. Nevertheless, both politicians should be able to put these crises behind them. Most likely, it won't be scandals that will determine who will be the next President. Rather, it will be Obama's performance that will decide the outcome of the 2012 Election, and that's bad news for the Democrats. The Obamacare rollout was a disaster, and although improvements have been made, the future of the Affordable Care Act still looks very uncertain. Moreover, the American economy is still tepid, and job growth has been equally anemic. These failures taint all Democrats, including Hillary Clinton. If Obamacare and the economy improve, then Ms. Clinton will have a decent shot at winning the Presidency. If they do not, then Christie will be the winner, and his present-day scandal will be rendered an obscure footnote in history.