OK

A man who dedicated his life to helping all Americans and moving the country in a positive direction passed away yesterday, leaving all of us with a hopeful legacy that will continue to inspire the better angels of our nature for lifetimes to come.

And then there's Chris Christie.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, out Tuesday, found a sharp drop in support for the New Jersey governor since the Republican was embroiled in a scandal resulting from a multiday traffic snarl near the George Washington Bridge.

In the new poll, more Americans view Mr. Christie negatively than positively, by a margin of 29%-22%. That’s a swift reversal from October when an earlier poll found 33% of the respondents viewed him positively, compared with the 17% who viewed him negatively.

Christie's collapsing poll numbers are most pronounced among self-identified political moderates, while Democrats who once found his "get things done" schtick appealing by a factor of two-to one now feel negatively about him by roughly the same ratio. Although his numbers have dropped among Republicans, many in the GOP continue to find he and his aides' malevolent acts of political retribution against school-age children and Hurricane Sandy victims appealing. While nothing's guaranteed, they will probably feel the same way after learning about his curious land deal using withheld taxpayer funds dedicated to Hurricane Sandy Relief. Christie can take some solace, however, in the fact that Mitt Romney still is a fan.

The majority of the rest of Americans think he's a liar:

In the Journal poll, 79% of the respondents said they were aware of the story, a slight increase from an earlier NBC News/Marist poll conducted a few weeks earlier.

Forty-four percent of the respondents in the Journal poll doubted Mr. Christie was telling the truth when he denied any knowledge of the plan to slow traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., while 42% believed he was. That also represents a slide from the NBC/Marist poll taken in mid-January.

More on the poll from Jed Lewison, here.

Evidently his handlers have told him to put on a happy face.  Using the upcoming Super Bowl to be played at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ, Christie has tried to do just that, "hamming it up" with the head of the NFL:

The Republican was unusually sunny promoting Sunday’s big event, as he tries to return to his former self.

Since the Bridgegate scandal broke in early January, the 51-year-old has tried to hit a conciliatory tone and soften his image to correct the “bully” label thrown at him, seemingly validated by the scandal.

That may prove difficult. Today's New York Times examines the depth of Christie's own involvement with his re-election team as they created lists of "friends" and "enemies" in Christie's bid last year obtain the support from disparate communities within the state:
Staff members in the governor’s office created tabbed and color-coded dossiers on the mayors of each town — who their friends and enemies were, the policies and projects that were dear to them — that were bound in notebooks for the governor to review in his S.U.V. between events.
Although it's not directly stated in the Times article, the implication is that Christie was intimately involved in coordinating strategy and tactics with the same staffers he now claims were running rogue:
[A] close look at his operation and how intimately he was involved in it, described in interviews with dozens of people — Republican and Democrat, including current and former Christie administration officials, elected leaders and legislative aides — gives credence to the puzzlement expressed by some Republicans and many Democrats in the state, who question how a detail-obsessed governor could have been unaware of the closings or the effort over months to cover up the political motive.
Indeed, as the campaign developed, no detail escaped Christie's watchful eyes:
Everything had to be vetted by the governor’s top lawyers in the counsel’s office or by his chief of staff: minor changes in bills or labor agreements, news releases from agencies and commissions.

* * *

Mr. Christie himself tended to the smallest of details. He personally oversaw appointments to the State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, legislative leaders said, and when he wanted to discuss something with lawmakers, he texted them himself. (He told one top legislator that he had learned from his experience as United States attorney not to email; texts were harder to trace.)

In particular, Christie leaned heavily on his now-fired Deputy Chief of Staff (and Bridget Kelly's predecessor), Bill Stepien, who headed up the political operation. The Times quotes one source as saying that Stepian (described here as Christie's "Karl Rove") did nothing of significance without Christie knowing about it.

Stepian is recorded in the infamous "emails" released three weeks ago as calling the Mayor of Fort Lee an "idiot." The same trove of emails suggest that Stepian was involved and well aware of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

But the Governor was gosh, just left completely out of the loop.

“Bill Stepien didn’t report to the chief of staff. He reported to the governor. There was no dotted line; there was a direct line.”
If Mr. Stepien was not in the daily staff meetings, he would be talking to the governor or his outside political advisers later.
“If ‘Step’ were to bark an order at somebody, the assumption would be — unless otherwise stated — that it was coming from the governor,” one veteran Republican consultant said. “There is no getting around that.”
Meanwhile, Christie's happy act faces an uphill climb. Two thirds of the state's resident voters feel that the scandal goes well beyond "politics as usual." And this is New Jersey we're talking about. That should give Christie a clue as to how the rest of the country feels about him.

Enemies lists. Mean-spirited Dirty Tricks. Overweening Arrogance. Petty Vindictiveness. A Re-Election Campaign.

New Jersey resident Scott Raab who has covered the Port Authority for  Esquire Magazine has introduced the first in a series of posts he has dubbed the "Christie Countdown Clock." Raab suggests that the national fixation on all things Christie will soon come to an ignominious end:

This is where Chris Christie's lust for power has come to die. When -- and crucially, if -- the New Jersey legislature and the U.S. Attorney untangle the webs that connect the governor, the Port Authority, and the billions of dollars generated by New York City real-estate development, Chris Christie's political life is finished. One false step. One e-mail. One witness. He has lawyered up and hunkered down, but he knows it's merely a matter of time now. That's a dead man at the microphone.
And then we won't have Chris Christie to kick around anymore.

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