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Chris Christie for President?

HOST INTRO: An internal review of Bridgegate denied Governor Chris Christie had any role in closing multiple lanes of the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee. New documents filed with the investigation have left reporters with more questions–questions about the case, and Christie’s administration. But for now, Katie Toth looks forward: to Christie’s potential presidential ambitions.

Photo by Mel Evans, Associated Press.

Photo by Mel Evans, Associated Press.

With its grassy knolls and its red brick buildings, Stevens Institute of Technology looks like a lot of colleges in the Northeast. You might even expect it to be a hotbed of liberalism. But, you’d be wrong.

SETH ESSENDROP: It’s an engineering school, it’s not a liberal arts school, so you’ll either get people from conservative families or people who are pretty apathetic to the political process and more intent on their own careers. (0:09)

That’s Seth Essendrop. He’s the president of the College Republicans here at Stevens. And if Christie wants to win a national audience, people like Essendrop are the first ones he’ll have to convince.

Essendrop is already a fan of Christie’s work:

ESSENDROP: He’s provided some solutions in terms of the budget to our state, he’s been a very–I don’t want to say populist person because that has a connotation to it, but he’s been very out there, very involved. He’s been a very involved governor, and I like that about him. (0:18)

The closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge by Christie’s staff members? That’s not going to cause Essendrop to stop supporting him as a governor. But here’s where Essendrop has reservations: when the primary rolls around, he plans to choose the Republican who will share his conservative values. That means elsewhere in the country, Chris Christie might have some work to do.

ESSENDROP: Midwest conservatives are more to the right than conservatives here so he’s going to have to position himself more to the right. Bridgegate, I think, is going to be ancillary to that. (0:12)

BEN DWORKIN: Nobody in Iowa or New Hampshire is going to vote for or against Governor Christie because a few lanes on the George Washington Bridge were closed. (0:11)

 Ben Dworkin is the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, a think tank at Rider University. And he’s not so sure we should write off the importance of this bridge thing just yet. It comes down to something Dworkin calls “escalation.” For a long time, he says, Christie was perceived as a straight-talking, honest, sharp shooter in the party, or, in Dworkin’s words–

DWORKIN: –As a bully. In the current political climate, being a bully is not such a bad thing! It’s intriguing! (0:07)

Now, that image is at risk.

DWORKIN: He’s not just being accused of being a bully. He’s being accused of abuse of power. (0:07)

It’s early. But before the scandal broke, Christie was a frontrunner for the Republican Primaries in 2016. Pragmatists liked his ability to bring conservative principles to a largely liberal state. It seemed obvious: Christie was a guy who could win.

In late January, his popularity started slipping. But for now, the effects of Bridgegate may have subsided. Recent polls show Christie with similar levels of support to Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush and Rand Paul.

And Christie says whatever he does in the future, he’s ready put the scandal behind him. Here he is on ABC with Diane Sawyer:

 CHRISTIE: What’s happened in the past few weeks I think has made me a better leader–whether it’s as New Jersey Governor or any other job I take in the public or private sector. (0:12)

The Governor says he won’t officially announce any intention to run for President until early next year.

Katie Toth, Columbia Radio News.


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