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National and world

February 9, 2014

Scandal may hurt Christie’s ability to push his agenda

TRENTON, N.J. — This is the year Chris Christie was planning to be more than just New Jersey’s governor. Yet it turns out that high-profile investigations into his administration and campaign operation in a political payback case could make advancing his agenda a challenge.

Christie came off a decisive re-election victory in November already in the spotlight and with opportunities for some signature accomplishments. He became chairman of the Republican Governors Association, making him the chief fundraiser for the group in a year featuring 36 gubernatorial elections. His state hosted the first Super Bowl played outdoors in a cold-weather locale. The stage was set for him to keep gaining exposure ahead of a possible 2016 presidential bid and to claim a mandate on imposing his policies at home in New Jersey.

The spotlight has indeed intensified for Christie — but it’s due to scandal.

“This has become a major distraction for him and his team,” said David Gergen, a political analyst who served as a White House adviser to Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and Democrat Bill Clinton. “They are having to fight back on various fronts.”

Last month, emails revealed that Christie’s staff was involved in ordering a September shutdown of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge — apparently for political retribution against a Democratic mayor. The result was massive gridlock in the community of Fort Lee. Christie has denied any involvement.

Also last month, Hoboken Democratic Mayor Dawn Zimmer said two members of Christie’s Cabinet told her the city’s “Superstorm” Sandy aid would be tied to her support of a real estate development project. Christie’s administration has denied her accusations.

Christie has had few public appearances in New Jersey since a nearly two-hour news conference in mid-January when he denied knowing about the planning or execution of the lane closings.

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