New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bridge scandal blew wide open less than two months after he was named chairman of the Republican Governors Association — a post that will require him to travel around the country raising money for other Republicans in this year’s 36 governors’ races.
Next week, he is slated to travel to Florida to headline fundraisers for Gov. Rick Scott, his first political events since he was forced to apologize and dismiss staff members for shutting down part of the George Washington Bridge, according to the National Journal.
Christie’s visit to Florida — and his fundraising performance — will be closely watched as allies and opponents assess his viability in the wake of “Bridgegate.” Christie has publicly apologized, saying he had no prior knowledge of his aide’s involvement in shutting down bridge lanes and jamming traffic in political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J.
He is scheduled to headline events for Scott and the RGA in Naples, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and West Palm Beach.
Democrats in the state eager to unseat Scott in one of the year’s top races have already turned Christie’s visit into an attack line.
“You might think it’s a bridge too far for Christie to attend fundraisers while mired in scandal,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp, in a statement also publicized by the Democratic National Committee. “But we think it’s heartwarming that scandal-plagued governor Christie would take a break from political damage control to raise money for his scandal-plagued colleague, Rick Scott.”
If the bridge scandal has staying power, Christie may hear similar taunts as he travels the country to campaign on behalf of some of the 20 Republican governors up for re-election this year.
Republicans in Florida shrugged off the controversy, saying Christie will be more than welcome in the Sunshine state.
“Governor Christie has taken responsibility for the situation and we are looking forward to having him down in Florida,” said Susan Hepworth, spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Florida.
While some Republicans have taken shots at Christie in the wake of the bridge revelations — including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham — governors have steered clear of criticizing their chairman.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley defended Christie on her Facebook page, saying the potential 2016 presidential candidate “did the right thing in taking responsibility in a tough situation.”
Florida’s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, another potential 2016 presidential contender, stayed mum.
“I don’t have any comment on this story, I just don’t,” Rubio told NBC News.
Scott, who is likely to face former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist (running now as a Democrat), is trailing in early opinion polling and struggling with low approval ratings, according to a November poll by Quinnipiac University.