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Christiegate: Scandal continues to haunt New Jersey governor

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14 2014 1:09 p.m. MST

In this Jan. 9, 2014, photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J.  Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election.  (Mel Evans, Associated Press) In this Jan. 9, 2014, photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (Mel Evans, Associated Press)

In the aftermath of Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate,” people were not only left with doubts about his leadership but also another scandal.

According to a report by Asbury Park Press, a New Jersey daily, just a couple of days after relieving some of his top advisers over the George Washington Bridge scandal, Christie is now embroiled in a federal investigation looking into possible misuse of Superstorm Sandy relief funds. According to the report, Christie used relief funds for a fundraising campaign during his re-election campaign.

This latest scandal has people wondering if he is suited for a presidential run in 2014. George Packer of The New Yorker, for example, asked “Why do I keep having flashbacks to 1972?” An obvious reference to Richard Nixon that can prove quite troubling to Christie as he goes forward if it persists.

“Character is destiny, and politicians usually get the scandals they deserve, with a sense of inevitability about them,” Packer said.

According to Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politics, Christie faces challenges in reasserting his agenda and furthering his presidential aspirations.

"He must carefully reassert himself against a Democratic Party that smells blood in the water following a different kind of storm," Conroy wrote.

As the Trentonian has reported, Christie's State of the State address will undoubtedly mention “Bridgegate” and the federal investigation into the Superstorm Sandy relief funds.

However, instead of offering new details into the scandals he is more likely to try to change the subject, New Jersey political analyst Carl Golden told Real Clear Politics. “The overriding thing is going to be to convince everybody, ‘OK this thing has been consuming all the political oxygen in this state, but we’ve got work to do,’ ” said Golden. “I suspect that he’ll make an effort to shift the debate away from what’s been consuming everybody up here and back onto policy and programs.”

Jonathan Chait of New York magazine believes Christie’s presidential hopes are fruitless. “There are now two ongoing investigations into alleged abuses of power, each of which is potentially fatal," Chait said. "Even if neither produces further damaging allegations, they both have already yielded enough public information to be used against him." As well, there are numerous scandals dating back to before he was governor.

Thomas Sowell of the National Review theorizes that although Christie is embroiled in scandal, he has something other Republicans don’t — the ability to articulate his thoughts in a way that resonates with people, and that may prove to be his path to success. “Governor Christie's nearly two-hour-long press conference last week showed again that he is in a class by himself when it comes to Republicans who can express themselves in the heat of political battle,” said Sowell.

Whether or not Christie is the GOP nominee in 2016, the coming political roller-coaster should be extremely interesting to follow.

Erik Raymond is experienced in national and international politics. He relocated from the Middle East where he was working on his second novel. He produces content for DeseretNews.com. You can reach him at: eraymond@deseretdigital.com @RaymondErik

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