National party leaders at the Republican National Committee meeting in Washington Thursday offered mixed opinions of whether New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's chances at running for president have been damaged by the bridge-gate scandal.
Most RNC members meeting at the Renaissance Hotel who spoke to Newsmax voiced support for Christie and none would go so far as former Virginia gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli in calling for him to step down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
But some conservative party leaders voiced criticism and doubts about the governor, who until the George Washington Bridge traffic controversy erupted, was leading in many polls for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Now, in the wake of investigations into bridge-gate and whether Christie's office misused Superstorm Sandy relief funds, some at the RNC are starting to grow wary.
"I'd think the charges and investigations probably hurt him," Louisiana state GOP Chairman Roger Villere Jr., told Newsmax. "There seems to be more than what is on the surface."
Villere's tone was quite different from the summer RNC meeting, when he voiced forgiveness for Christie's controversial hug of President Barack Obama during Superstorm Sandy just days before the 2012 election.
Villere told Newsmax last summer that the governor "was doing everything he could to help his state during Sandy. So do I mind him embracing Obama under the circumstances? No, not at all."
"He's in trouble, all right," former Georgia RNC member and National Rifle Association board member Carolyn Meadows told Newsmax. "But he was in trouble in part of the country before this bridge business. Look, we appreciate him for what he's done as governor, but he won't sell in Georgia because he's not a conservative."
RNC member Robert List of Nevada said Christie was "temporarily wounded" by the recent events, but "he can recover if it is shown he was not the architect of the traffic pile-up" that seems targeted at a Democratic mayor who would not endorse him for re-election.
List, a former governor of Nevada, said Christie's political rebound will depend "on whether it is shown he is telling the truth. Right now, Republicans in Nevada are looking for a winner in '16 and they sure like him."
For the most part, RNC members and other party leaders signaled they were standing by Christie unless investigations showed he was not telling the truth about the closing of lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge that caused four days of traffic gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., last year.
"There is no evidence Gov. Christie ordered anything — anything at all," former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told Newsmax before speaking at the RNC luncheon. "In the long run, I think he'll be fine."
The 2008 presidential candidate went on to denounce the "feeding frenzy in the media" over Christie's plight.
"Unique politicians have an extraordinary ability to recover," echoed South Carolina state Chairman Matt Moore. "Gov. Christie can make this come out well with the right strategy and then move on to important things.
"He may be strengthened by the way he handled this and fired the staff immediately. In holding that press conference for 119 minutes, he handled himself well. You can't get 119 seconds out of Barack Obama on Benghazi."
Vermont's RNC member Jay Shepard told Newsmax, "Once the facts are out, I think the governor will recover. But anytime someone is accused of something, they suffer personally."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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