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Bridgegate subpoenas fly as some ask whether Chris Christie's bullying helps him

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers the State of the State Address on January 14, 2014 at the Statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers the State of the State Address on January 14, 2014 at the Statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Today, January 17, some 20 subpoenas from a special New Jersey State Assembly investigative panel are being served in the Bridgegate scandal involving New Jersey Governor Chris Christie‘s office. The Bridgegate subpoenas reportedly include Chief of Staff Kevin O'Dowd, fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelley, Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey David Samson, resigned Port Authority official David Wildstein and other individuals and organizations. While Governor Christie has denied direct involvement in blocking traffic on the George Washington Bridge last September as possible political retaliation, Bridgegate has reinforced Christie’s reputation as a bully in the minds of many people. However, some folks are wondering whether being known as a bully could actually help Christie win the 2016 Republican Party nomination for President, should Christie decide to run.

For example, comedian and host of HBO’s “Real Time” Bill Maher, appearing on MSNBC’s “Hardball” with Chris Matthews last Tuesday night, had this to say regarding Christie and the Republican Party in 2016:

I also don’t think that this is going to be a scandal that’s going to affect him with the people in his own party. He keeps saying ‘I’m not a bully.’ Sure he’s a bully, and that’s what they like about him is that he’s a bully. If he’s not a bully, who is he? He’s just Lamar Alexander [mild-mannered U.S. Senator and former Governor from Tennessee]. They are always looking for a bully in that party. They loved Sarah Palin, remember? Sarah Palin was a bully.

Other Republicans, such as Mike Emanuel of Fox News (citing unnamed “experts”), similarly stated that Bridgegate could help Chris Christie. Indeed, a new Public Policy poll released yesterday (January 16) shows that Christie is up 12 points among Republicans in New Hampshire since Bridgegate.

Challenges for Christie

However, assuming that Bridgegate doesn’t disqualify Christie from a legal or political standpoint, Christie faces some potential challenges in using his image to help him with Republicans:

1. Christie won’t explicitly embrace his bully image. On the contrary, Christie said “I am not a bully” in response to a direct question at his recent Bridgegate press conference.

2. The Bridgegate traffic jams punished a broad group of people, which likely included plenty of Republicans, along with truckers, commuters, schoolchildren and elderly people waiting for medical attention. As Bill Maher told Chris Matthews in his recent interview:

I never knew before of a scandal where an administration, maybe it wasn’t Christie himself but the administration, actually purposely inflicted pain on its own citizens to make a point to other politicians. I mean, [former President Richard] Nixon had an enemies list, but he carried out his vengeance directly against the people who were his enemies. He didn’t use the people of America as hostage shields.

3. Christie has a problem similar to the one Willard Mitt Romney had in 2012, where many Republicans see Christie as another moderate Northeast Republican who doesn’t share the religious and cultural views that drive much of the Republican base.

4. Chris Christie’s bullying image, like Romney’s perceived out-of-touch elitism, raises the danger that Christie could win the Republican nomination, but then feed his own stereotype and turn off the majority of voters in the general election.

© 2014 Matthew Emmer -- All Rights Reserved

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