Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani has a theory for why the press has been so aggressively covering New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal: presidential politics.
According to Mr. Giuliani, one of the few Republicans to defend Mr. Christie in the immediate aftermath of the scandal last week, media outlets like The New York Times have been ripping into Mr. Christie because he is “the only guy” that rivals Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race for the White House.
“I told Chris this: Here’s the problem he has–why they escalated it,” Mr. Giuliani explained this morning, speaking from Florida on Geraldo Rivera’s WABC radio show. “So far he’s the only guy that beats Hillary. In the polls that have been taken, Hillary wins most of them, right? She beats most of the Republicans handily. The only one who has occasionally been able to beat her by 3, 4 points is Chris Christie. And the only one who can stay with her is Chris Christie.”
“So he’s their number one target. That’s why the New York Times has made this into worse than Benghazi, worse than the IRS scandal, worse than Obamacare,” he continued, ticking off controversies that have dogged President Barack Obama.
In public polls taken of the 2016 presidential race before the scandal, Mr. Christie has indeed been more competitive against Ms. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, than other potential candidates. However, polling done years before an election actually takes place is more likely to measure name recognition than predict the eventual winner. (Ms. Clinton and Mr. Christie have not announced they are even running.)
On the radio today, Mr. Giuliani further predicted that Mr. Christie’s hypothetical presidential campaign would fare much better than his own 2008 bid, which tanked badly. “Chris has his own set of strengths and weaknesses. Chris is pro-life; I was pro-choice–big difference right away. It means that Iowa … [and] South Carolina are not out of the question,” he said. “Chris doesn’t have the same definitive issue that sort of rules you out in Iowa.”
The former mayor, as he has previously, also praised Mr. Christie’s press conference last week where he apologized for the scandal and announced he fired his top aide who appears to have helped orchestrate traffic chaos in the small town of Fort Lee as some sort of bizarre political retaliation plot. Mr. Christie has maintained he knew nothing about the incident, and if that turns out to be true, Mr. Giuliani said the New Jersey governor will be just fine in the long run.
“I believe he’s telling the truth. In fact, I’m convinced he’s telling the truth,” he said. “If it holds up that he’s telling the truth–that he didn’t know about it–then this is a stupid thing that happened in his administration. Contrast that to the way that Obama handles these things. People were fired. People were held accountable. He held a long press conference answering it.”
“I think this is a pretty good example in leadership,” Mr. Giuliani added, “if you assume that every leader makes a big mistake.”