Sunday, May 3, 2015

That Confounded Bridge

Let the media frenzy begin. 

The most anticipated day in recent New Jersey political history came and went on Friday with the announcement of legal actions in the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal. Governor Christie was not indicted and indeed, there was precious little information that tied him directly to the scandal, but the effects on his ability to run the state and probably for president will be profound. How much? That depends.

Conservative columnist George Will said today that the fallout will not be too bad, mainly because of the lack of evidence against the governor. he also said that the national media will move on to other stories and if they get bored they can always try to spin Christie as a comeback tale.

Nationally, the reaction has been mixed. Iowa Republicans, who tend to be more conservative than many, don't like Christie because he's too liberal for them and because he hugged President Obama during the 2012 campaign when Obama visited New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. In New Hampshire, Christie is seen as a more viable candidate because he's doing the things that get you support there including meeting with small groups of people and shaking hands outside of businesses. Add in the fact that the scandal really doesn't resonate outside of the state and you have a less imposing barrier for the governor to hurdle (an interesting visual).

In New Jersey, the focus is sharper. The state's economy still lags behind the nation's recovery and the governor's public worker pension and benefits proposal is going nowhere in the Democratic-controlled legislature. Add in the fact that at least three legislators are probably going to run for governor in 2017 and it's clear that a deal such as Christie made with the other side in 2011 is not going to take shape this year. He's also not all that popular in the state. After winning a landslide victory in 2013, it's been downhill for Christie's approval numbers, which now show a majority of residents disapproving of the job he's doing. So even without the traffic jam, Christie will have a hard time convincing national voters to allow him to take the country in the same direction he's taken New Jersey.

The Newark Star-Ledger has bluntly called for Christie to stop entertaining a presidential run and do the work in New Jersey that he was elected to do. I believe that most residents would agree with that. His prospects have dimmed considerably and even with a late May or early June announcement, he'd be behind Jeb Bush and Scott Walker in the money and endorsement race. The reality is that Christie might even have to wait until July to announce because the next fiscal year's budget is where he needs victories on taxes, pensions, healthcare and entitlements that at this point he is unlikely to get.

That will leave him with an agenda focused on Social Security reform, which has been bashed in the press, a sputtering economy, volatile, insulting Internet videos, and zero foreign policy experience in a world that's on the verge of a major explosion. This is hardly the environment for a thin-skinned, ill-tempered, secretive candidate with serious management and hiring issues to succeed. Nor is it what we need as a country at this point ion our history.

I would never count Christie out completely, but I would say that things are not looking up for him at the moment.

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  1. With regard to "next fiscal year's budget is where he needs victories on taxes, pensions, healthcare and entitlements that at this point he is unlikely to get", what can he do by executive order or line-item veto (i.e., without the legislature)?

  2. He can only veto things that are in the budget. He can't put things in there without the legislature's approval.

  3. Can he adjust an item, or it's all-or-nothing?