It was riveting to watch New Jersey Governor Chris Christie throw himself on the sword again and again (and again and again…) during an unprecedented 107-minute mea culpa news conference on Thursday. Christie’s rambling admission that he was duped by top staffers over what is now being labeled “Bridgegate” by many media was, to say the least, thorough.
Here are a few observations on the initial stages of how Christie is handling this crisis and what it means in the end:
He faced the music.
While the crisis playbook says to read your statement, take a few questions and then get the heck off the stage, several media experts marveled at Christie’s stamina during the marathon news conference, noting his constant apologies and ability to outlast reporter questions under a white hot spotlight. Christie took the heat, immediately fired those responsible, apologized and accepted responsibility without changing his aggressive style.
He left little room for doubt.
While his performance in the news conference was suitably apologetic, he pounded a big stake in the ground that he had no knowledge of what occurred until presented with email evidence just this week. If that’s the case – and we’ll see as the investigations commence – he can survive this storm and resume his chase of higher political office. If he lied, he’s done. And that’s the big question, with plenty of media and political strategists on both sides of the aisle anxious to keep the story alive until it is answered.
Voters have probably already decided.
Political strategists will tell you that it is a slim percentage of the population that vote outside their established party affiliation. And in the case of the gregarious Christie, people already really like him or they really don’t. For him, his personality and party affiliation has already established much of what his support base will be in a race for higher office. Absent any damning new information, he’ll get through this crisis and be a viable candidate in 2016 because the American people have shown a great ability to forgive when the apology is sincere and accountability is demonstrated, where, in round one at least, Christie gets the nod.