By Paul Gable
New Jersey governor Chris Christie discovered the real meaning of the political microscope in the last couple of days when a scandal that had been brewing around his administration broke into the national spotlight Wednesday.
Whether Christie knew about it or not, closing a couple of traffic lanes to cause massive traffic congestion into the George Washington Bridge for a couple of days as retribution for failing to get the endorsement of a small time New Jersey mayor is peanuts as far as political scandals go.
However, when you are thought of as a leading candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, it takes over national news.
And, in this age of text, twitter and the internet, reputations can be made quickly and just as quickly broken. Witness the below examples.
Barack Obama was a state senator for three terms in Illinois before bursting into the national spotlight with the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic national convention followed by his election that same year to the U.S. Senate. Three years later he was running for president, winning election in 2008 to the nation’s highest office with little idea of how government really works. His performance as president has been less than stellar, in my opinion.
Rudy Giuliani would have been remembered as the New York City mayor who was barred from Gracie Mansion by his second wife because of an affair with the woman who would become his third wife. But then came the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which catapulted Giuliani to international fame, including an honorary British knighthood, and, for a time, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
Our own Nikki Haley parlayed her status as a minority woman, a few well selected sound bites and an endorsement by Sarah Palin into election as the Tea Party governor of South Carolina in 2010. She hooked her star to Mitt Romney early in the 2012 presidential election cycle trying to become a national name. However, the bloom appears to be off that rose as Haley prepares for a re-election contest this year.
Christie served one term as a member of the Morris County (NJ) Board of Freeholders (1994-98) before losing a re-election bid. He came back to prominence as a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey before winning election as governor of that normally Democratic state in 2009.
Christie was reportedly vetted by Romney’s team as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2012. But, it was Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and his response to it, as well as his overwhelming re-election last fall that really made Christie’s national image.
The recent scandal, as well as Christie’s nearly two hour rambling press conference in response, has tarnished that image.
Just how much, we will have to wait and see.