TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The question on many minds Thursday night was how the handling of the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal will affect Gov. Chris Christie’s lofty political ambitions.
What the nation saw earlier in the day was either genuine contrition or a carefully choreographed act to dig out from under a burgeoning scandal. Either way, Christie is in search of an E-ZPass to put the bridge-gate scandal to bed, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
“I’m embarrassed and humiliated,” Christie said during a press conference at the Statehouse in Trenton.
What Garden State voters saw was a Christie they were unfamiliar with, saying things you never expected the brash politician to ever utter. He said he asked himself over and over and over, “What did I do wrong to have these folks think it was okay to lie to me? There’s a lot of soul searching that goes along with this.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. I’ve worked for 12 years in public life developing a reputation for honesty and directness and blunt talk, one that I think is well deserved,” Christie added. “But when something like this happens, it’s appropriate to question it and I am.”
With his political future hanging in the balance, Christie not only talked the talk of contrition, he walked the walk. He looked slightly bedraggled, baggy-eyed, sleepless at times and near tears.
The big question is whether people will buy it, not only the people in New Jersey, but in the Republican Party, where he was eyed as a top contender for the 2016 presidential nomination.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner was asked if Christie’s 1-hour, 50-min mea culpa was sufficient.
“I think so. I think so,” Boehner said.
Other Republicans supported him, too.
“This is one effective leader. I’ve always applauded his leadership. The way he comes out, answers all questions, says I’m betrayed, I’m taking care of business, that’s the kind of leadership we need. The public loves him. His future is glossy,” said state Assemblyman John Bramnick (R-Westfield).
National Democrats have already started running ads against him and his Democratic opponent in last year’s gubernatorial race said she doesn’t buy it.
“That guy is feigning innocence. It just doesn’t pass the smell test. I’m calling on the U.S. Attorney to conduct a full investigation,” state Sen. Barbara Buono said.
And as CBS News Political Director John Dickerson reported Thursday evening, political strategists said Christie has begun repairing his political standing – changing the focus from the scandal to his crisis management response.
“But what worries those who want him to run for president is that Governor Christie made a lot of assurances in those two hours today, and the question is will the story hold up in the coming weeks as investigators proceed and the press digs?” Dickerson told Scott Pelley on the CBS Evening News. “Any evidence of connection to this episode would be fatal, since Governor Christie has been adamant that this was a surprise to him.”
Also of concern is whether there is any additional evidence of rogue activity by Christie’s top advisers, Dickerson said.
“That would water down the governor’s image as a hands-on manager, or suggest that he encouraged a culture that this kind of behavior was tolerated,” Dickerson said.
And the 2016 presidential campaign is a long way off, which means there is time for the story to go away – but also time for Christie’s opponents to keep digging, Dickerson said.
What Christie also has to worry about now is the U.S. Attorney’s probe and if any of the roads or bridges lead back to him, Kramer reported.
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