2016 5 Fragen an... Republicans

Beyond Bridgegate: does Chris Christie have a political future?

Interview with Nick Ragone

Chris Christie’s strategy so far has been that of an all out attack: fire and denounce his former employees and appointees and then declare ignorance of what was going on. Has this strategy worked so far?

I’m not sure his strategy has been an “all out attack” so far. Clearly, he’s decided to attack David Wildstein after his attorney revealed that there may be evidence that Governor Christie was aware of the lane closings. It’s too early to tell if that strategy will work, but it doesn’t change the basic calculus of this scandal: If it’s proven that Governor Christie either ordered or was aware of the lane closings then his political career is likely over. He’s staked his entire reputation on the fact that he knew nothing about this. If that turns out to be a lie than he’s in deep trouble.

Christie lambasted both the New York Times and David Wildstein after the newspaper came out with the story that Christie knew more about Bridgegate than he admits. Can this strategy of personal attacks work?

With the New York Times, I believe he corrected some inaccuracies in their lede and the story (which the Times itself has gone on to correct). The Times admitted it was a bit loose with its language in the story and I think the Christie Administration rightly pushed back. As for Wildstein, the Christie Administration is clearly trying to discredit him as a source. It’ll all come down to why type of evidence Wildstein has to prove that Governor Christie was aware of the lane closings.

If – as Wildstein claims – Christie really knew about the lane closures: can he survive this politically?

No, his political career will be effectively over.

Even if he is cleared of any wrongdoings, will Bridgegate stick on him and diminish his chance on a presidential run?

If it turns out, after all the investigations, that Governor Christie did not authorize and was not aware of the lane closings, than he’ll still have a chance at seeking the Republican nomination. I’m not sure Republican primary voters – three years from now — will care about the lane closings (again, should it turn out Governor Christie told the truth). All comes down to whether or not Governor Christie was telling the truth.

Finally, what would your advice for Christie be. How should he handle the situation?

Focus on your job, tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.

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Nick Ragone is Partner at Ketchum and the Director of Ketchum Washington, D.C.

Nick serves as a senior strategist, counselor and media trainer to many of the agency’s top clients. In 2007, Nick was named one of PR Week’s “40 under 40” to watch in the industry. He is the author of five books, including four on government and politics, with his most recent being Presidential Leadership: 15 Decisions that Changed the Nation (February, 2011). Nick is a regular contributor to Fox News, CNN and Fox Business on issues of politics and communications, as well as the Star-Ledger, Politico, the Washington Times and US News & World, PRWeek, Adage, and the New York Times. Nick is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

Interview: Adrian Rosenthal & Georg Schmitt

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