Chris Christie: will bridge scandal kill presidential hopes?

New Jersey governor fights to distance himself from plot to use traffic chaos to hurt political opponent

LAST UPDATED AT 10:30 ON Thu 9 Jan 2014

CHRIS CHRISTIE, the Republican governor of New Jersey, is often cited as a future president because of his ability to build bridges between both sides of politics. 

Unfortunately for Christie, it is a bridge - a real one rather than a metaphor - that is threatening to stop his glittering political career dead in its tracks.

Emails obtained by the US press show that one of the governor's senior staffers "conspired to cause traffic chaos near a town controlled by a political opponent", The Guardian reports. The chaos was unleashed by closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge, a double-decked suspension bridge that forms the main conduit between New York and New Jersey.

The lane closures on the world's busiest bridge had the desired effect, reports NorthJersey.com, as traffic piled up. However, the jams also delayed ambulance teams from reaching four patients, including a 91-year-old woman who later died in hospital.

The alleged target of the lane closures was the mayor of Fort Lee, a New Jersey town, who had refused to endorse Christie's successful re-election bid. But it is the governor who is feeling the heat, says the BBC, as Americans ponder the "obvious alleged abuse of power" that could "prove very damaging if it can be directly tied to Mr Christie".

The man himself insists it can't. He says he is "outraged" by the actions disclosed in the emails and has vowed to punish those responsible for ordering the lane closures.

But political commentators say the man widely tipped as a potential frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has certainly been wounded by the scandal. Writing in the Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart notes that Christie cancelled his sole public engagement yesterday as anger over the lane closures intensified.

Writes Capehart: "Like all bullies, he's running away from a real fight. And it shows that he realises that his political standing at home and nationally is in danger."

The US political website TalkingPointsMemo says Christie's political future has been seriously damaged.

TPM's Joshua Marshall writes: "It's not bribery or killing someone or a high crime. But it's vindictive and quite possibly illegal. It's almost the definition of an abuse of power. It won't sink Christie. At least not the evidence so far. But it will hang around his neck forever as that bad thing Christie's operation did that supposedly (depending on whether you're a friend or enemy) tells you what the real Chris Christie is about." · 

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