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TheStreet Open House

Chris Christie Succumbs to Child's Play for Political Retribution

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie finds himself ensnared in child's play.

The Republican governor addressed the press on Thursday to apologize for lane closures to critical highways in New Jersey seemingly ordered by close aides, who did so as political revenge.

But the criticism isn't simply about a few traffic lane closures; instead, it paints Christie and his administration as approving  actions more characteristic of youngsters than professionals.

"There are lines of politics that you do not cross," Michael Goldman, a 45-year Democratic consultant, said in a phone interview from Boston. "It's a scandal because there is a sense that after an election is over that the job of a Republican, Democrat , independent -- whoever wins -- is to do public service."

Christie is two months removed from a landslide reelection victory, and possibly a year and a half shy of launching a national campaign to run for the Republican presidential nomination. In the year leading up to the Fort Lee bridge closing scandal, which emerged Wednesday, Christie had drawn national attention as a GOP figure who retained office in a typically Democratic state, and who stood side-by-side with President Barack Obama a week before the 2012 presidential election and thanked him for his help in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Now, though, the release of emails from some of the governor's senior staff who called for lane closures of critical commute routes to New York City and elsewhere -- supposedly ordered as a type of punishment on Fort Lee Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich for not supporting Christie's reelection campaign -- could create the perception that Christie is an overgrown child.

Christie supporters say this incident won't stick to the governor in the long term, as they argue he didn't have any knowledge of the emails and that this was strictly the work of his aides -- a similar argument Christie delivered on Thursday.

"It gets picked up because Christie has had an incredibly good year, the last 12 months politically, and at some point the press is primed to bring someone down after he's had such a good run," Fergus Cullen, a Republican New Hampshire political consultant, said in a phone interview.

How "bridgegate" will unfold for the governor, and whether it shapes the minds of national voters, should Christie run for president, remains to be seen.

For one, he could emerge from the scandal unscathed, showing voters that he can handle great political pressure.

"It doesn't make the history books, and this is not going to be something that will be remembered that way," said Cullen.

But, voters could still blame on Christie for not keeping control over his own staff.

"You're going to tie up traffic, tie up school children, how many business men lost business because people couldn't go to their stores?" said Goldman. "If you had been stuck on that bridge, wouldn't you still be pissed?"

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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