How Christie Can Cross The Bridge Scandal

Jan 9, 2014
Originally published on January 9, 2014 7:36 pm



Mike Murphy is a Republican consultant. He's advised several GOP governors, typically moderate-centrist Republicans. And he joins us now from Arizona. Welcome to the program.

MIKE MURPHY: Oh, good to be here, Robert.

SIEGEL: Chris Christie is seen as a contender for the 2016 presidential nomination. Where would you land today on a scale from showed he can weather a crisis to he's damaged goods to nationally he's toast?

MURPHY: I think he's done well today. I do think in this big kerfuffle here, you're seeing both the strength and weakness of Christie, the strength that he's kind of an anti-politician. He's blunt. He's not blow-dried. He kind of tells it the way it is. He has that big personality. The minus is, will that big personality wear on people, and will the fact that he clearly - or at least had a staff that played pretty rough-and-tumble politics, will that erode the non-politician vibe he has? So I don't think it's fatal. I think he's still a big contender. But we haven't seen the end of how this will affect his future.

SIEGEL: On the other hand, I'm trying to think of some precedent for this. Usually, governors or mayors are faulted when it comes to traffic for sins of omission, not fixing streets and the like. I've never heard of somebody, his office at least, taking responsibility for making a traffic jam.

MURPHY: Yeah. I think what happened is - I've worked in New Jersey. I was a consultant for the Republican governor before Governor Christie. And it's a rough and tumble political culture there, and there are no shortage of small-time feuds. So my guess, and it's only a guess, is this staffer, for some reason, had a big beef with this small-time mayor and dropped the atomic gridlock bomb quite inappropriately. And I think Christie has done the right thing by being pretty ruthless about firing people and taking responsibility.

But we don't know all the facts yet. So my guess is this is one of these things that it'll be a big thing now but, you know, the election is three years away, and we're seeing how it plays in the long term.

SIEGEL: Governor Christie took questions from reporters. I was reminded of Geraldine Ferraro back in 1984 when she was running for vice president and there were questions about her husband. What's the point here? What's the strategy of having a news conference that goes on seemingly forever?

MURPHY: Well, these funny rituals that kind of come out, I don't know how these rules are made. But one of the rules is that when you have one of these clearing-the-air press conferences, I guess you're supposed to - said somebody - to go on until you, quote, "answered every question," which you can brag about later. So my guess is that was his intent.

It reminded me a little bit of what could be a microcosm of his so far brilliant political career. I thought he started out very strongly. And by the end of it, there was sure a lot of the first-person singular pronoun, maybe a little too much of it. So Christie will be a big dominant figure in this primary should he run because he's larger than life and he just - he doesn't go anywhere quietly. Whether or not that gets him elected, that rocket fuel or whether it's going to be a big political mushroom cloud over New Hampshire in two years, we just don't know.

SIEGEL: What do you think of the observation made by some that the behavior of his staff in this case connected with the criticism of Christie that he's a bullying guy?

MURPHY: That is the negative narrative on Christie. If you accept the successes of getting things done, that blunt style, must there be a negative to that style, which is a heavy-handed, quote, unquote, "bullying." I think the media goes to that narrative in a quick and somewhat lazy manner, but it will the criticism. I think that's the big question, not how this particular fight over a bridge closing and political hijinks by his staff plays out but how the Christie persona plays in the long term through the primaries, both the strength of that strong, unique, anti-political leader and will people take that blunt style and get tired of it.

SIEGEL: Mike Murphy, thanks for talking with us once again.

MURPHY: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Republican consultant Mike Murphy spoke to us from Phoenix, Arizona. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.