Chris Christie’s Reputation Dinged Again as Scandals Stack Up

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has had a rough year, and his image has been taken on the same roller coaster ride, finally grinding to a halt where it now rests — right where it was before Hurricane Sandy. In the midst of recovery from Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Christie gained a strong following and received praise for his management of the devastation, putting him forward as a likely 2016 presidential candidate.

Then came the Bridgegate scandal in September, with lane closures on the George Washington Bridge organized by top Christie aides resulting in extreme traffic. Though Christie quickly fired those involved, including his top aide, Bridget Ann Kelly, he didn’t escape accusations that the closure — and even aspects of Sandy assistance — were related to political maneuverings. Specifically, he was accused of refusing aid to towns where Democratic mayors would not endorse his re-election as governor.

A poll released by Rutgers University on Wednesday emphasized just how far Christie has slipped in public opinion, with a mere 38 percent of voters in New Jersey approving of his post-Sandy efforts. This constitutes a significant decrease from his earlier polling and leaves 54 percent disapproving of his response to Hurricane Sandy. As for Bridgegate accusations, 47 percent “think it is very unlikely Christie did not know about the plan” and 52 percent say they “do not believe at all the governor’s explanation,” per Rutgers.

“These new numbers are a far cry from the nearly unanimous praise the governor had received for post-Sandy leadership,” said David Redlawsk, the director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and a political science professor at the university. “We’re seeing a real impact from recent claims involving withheld Sandy aid as political payback, as well as accusations of uneven and inappropriate distribution of recovery funds. … Positive views of Christie’s Sandy performance kept his overall ratings high through 2013.” However, after recent scandals, Christie was brought back to “the pre-Sandy status quo, when about half of voters supported him and the other half did not or [were] unsure.”

Still, a return to the status quo isn’t so bad for Christie, as it turns out. The poll showed that 90 percent of those who voted for him originally would still vote for him given the chance to vote again, indicating that Christie would fare well for re-election. On top of that, only a third of Democrats say he should resign, with just more than 75 percent of independents and 92 percent of Republicans saying they believe he should continue as governor.

“In the end, Governor Christie has a solid base of support among New Jersey voters, even if it is no longer at the record levels we once saw,” Redlawsk said. Legal and police investigations are still ongoing into the George Washington Bridge access lane closure and storm aid, with federal authorities involved. Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority police union, has said in earlier statements that the lane closures were part of a traffic study being conducted, an explanation that seems unlikely to stand up to closer scrutiny.

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