New Jersey Gov. Christie’s political future has been thrown in doubt by his administration’s recent scandals. But while some Republicans have taken pot-shots at the outspoken governor, the party’s establishment is standing by him.
At the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee, party leaders were more focused on revising the GOP’s rules before the next presidential cycle than on the New Jersey governor’s political troubles. But when prodded, RNC leaders are complimentary of Christie’s handling of the unwanted attention. Ron Kaufman, the Massachusetts committeeman and former advisor to Mitt Romney, said Christie did “everything right.”
“He did the right thing, he did what everyone wants you to do,” Kaufman said. “He stood up as a man and said ‘It’s my fault, I’m in charge. He fixed it and fired the folks that did it.”
Privately, many of the 168 members of the committee consider Christie their party’s best hope against Hillary Clinton, a calculation that hasn’t changed, and that is causing some heartburn. “He’s still our best shot, and if he can’t recover from this we’re in trouble,” said one RNC member on the condition of anonymity. Many of the RNC members are blaming the media for their intense focus on Christie over the past two weeks.
Bill Palatucci, one of Christie’s closest political confidants and committeeman from New Jersey, said his colleagues aren’t concerned by Christie’s temporary troubles at home.
“The members I spoke to were very supportive, very gracious in their comments, and particularly complimentary of the governor’s leadership in the nearly-two hour press conference,” he said. “Their response has been ‘tell him to keep doing what he’s doing.’”
Palatucci shook off the slew of recent surveys showing Christie’s approval ratings dropping. “Polls bounce around, you take them for what they are — a snapshot in time,” he said. “They’ll go up and down, that comes with the territory.”
Mississippi National Committeeman Henry Barbour said Christie’s test, should he decide to run for president, will be how his state performs in the long run.
“The question will be how does he do as governor,” he said. “Last month hasn’t been very good. But we’re a long ways off from when people are going to be making those sorts of decisions.”
Iowa National Committeeman Steve Scheffler said Christie’s recent troubles won’t hurt him in his state, but that his socially moderate positions might. “Giving up on the appeal on the marriage issue in the New Jersey Supreme Court and the signing of the DREAM Act, those are things that I think are going to hurt him,” he said.