Like never before, Governor Chris Christie is being called out on a number of questionable actions by his administration. The once compliant legislature is now challenging him on a number of policy issues. His famous town hall meetings are now being overrun by protestors demonstrating just how controlled they have always been. Critical voices formerly quiet are now emboldened to take the Governor on.
The reason for this is clear. Just months after his 22-point victory in November, the governor's popularity has been in free fall, primarily due to the fallout from the George Washington Bridge closing scandal. Prior to this scandal, the governor's bullying was excused since people thought he was working in the interest of New Jerseyans. However after his operatives hurt Fort Lee residents by closing their bridge access, they no longer see the governor as working for their interests. Thanks to this many of his self serving political maneuverings have come to light, hurting his regular guy working for New Jersey image. Formerly silent voices have brought a lot of damaging issues into the spotlight.
Starting with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Somewhere around 10 points of the governor's victory margin has to be due to the perception of his leadership after Sandy. From his bro-hug with President Obama on, the immediate aftermath of Sandy promoted the governor as a leader who would put aside partisanship to get results. The national news media helped reinforce this through constant guest appearances as a rational Republican. However, now we see that key recovery programs are not working and that the $58 million contract given to a firm to administer Sandy recovery programs had to be cancelled for incompetence. The crown jewel in Christie's reputation appears to be gathering dust.
The bridge scandal has also brought to light the inner workings of the Port Authority. The mutual benefit arrangement that put money in the pockets of PA Chairman David Sampson and votes for Chris Christie and other blatant political uses of PA influence. Other issues such as the ignoring of affordable housing mandates and the poor state of the economy and the growing budget deficit have been getting more play since the scandal.
Bridgegate has clearly weakened Christie and made his critics bolder. A weakened governor cannot intimidate people, so from legislators to students, ordinary citizens and the press, New Jerseyans are putting the heat on. Like sharks, they can taste blood and are attacking. What shape will Christie's political future be in after the attacks? Right now it doesn't look good.