Bridgegate and Christie’s Presidential Hopes
All eyes are on the U.S. Attorney's Office after a New York Times article cited sources who said indictments in the Bridgegate scandal could come as early as this week.
Political experts differed on how indictments, if there are any, would impact Gov. Chris Christie's presidential hopes.
"If any of the governor's friends are indicted it's a huge blow to Christie's presidential ambitions. You just can't pull into New Hampshire and Iowa with criminal indictments against people you've known for a long time and worked with. You can't claim that you didn't know anything about it. It won't fly," said Fairleigh Dickinson University Political Science Professor Peter Woolley.
Whether Christie claims he has nothing to do with the scandal or not makes no difference because it happened on his watch, Woolley said.
Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray had a different take. He said Christie's main task is to get through a Republican presidential primary and most Republicans nationwide who have paid attention to the Bridgegate issue feel it's a political witch hunt launched by Democrats.
"The governor's not going to be harmed too much depending on how close it comes to him," Murray said.
According to Murray, Christie could be damaged if any of those involved start naming names and indicating that the governor knew more about Bridgegate as it was going on than he has suggested.
Access lanes in Fort Lee leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed without warning for almost a week in September of 2013. The result was massive traffic jams and angry commuters. Christie has maintained that he had nothing to do with the planning or execution of the closures and an internal probe cleared him of wrongdoing. Democrats dismissed the report and said the lane closures were political payback because Fort Lee's mayor refused to endorse Christie's re-election campaign.
The chairman of the Port Authority at the time was David Samson. He has stepped down and recently retired from his law practice. His name was removed from the firm almost immediately and some saw that as an indication Samson could be indicted.
Also out of jobs as a result of the scandal are then-Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni, David Wildstein, Baroni's number-two man at the agency, Bill Stepien, Christie's long time advisor and Bridget Kelly, deputy chief of staff for the governor.
Guessing which person involved, if any will be indicted has become a bit of a parlor game in the world of New Jersey politics.
A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Tuesday revealed just 24 percent of registered New Jersey voters think Christie would be a good president, while 69 percent said he would not, a 10-point increase in negativity since a February poll.