Several leading New Jersey conservatives rallied to the side of beleaguered Gov. Chris Christie Thursday – doubting he is a "bridge bully" who wanted to punish Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee by creating a massive traffic jam in his community.
However, they cautioned that Christie’s problems won’t vanish overnight — even though he took responsibility for the traffic flap and fired his deputy chief of staff.
An "embarrassed and humiliated" New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday apologized
for the bridge-gate scandal after firing a top aide as a result of revelations this week that his staff may have orchestrated the closing of some lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge in an apparent political vendetta.
"The only way you could criticize Gov. Christie's performance is if you think he's lying — and I haven't met anyone who feels that way," former Bogota Mayor and stalwart conservative Steve Lonegan told Newsmax shortly after the governor's two-hour news conference on Thursday.
Lonegan, who was Christie's primary opponent for governor in 2009 and the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate race won by Cory Booker last year, said that "you can tell the measure of a man by how he behaves under pressure.
“The governor demonstrated today that he can step up to the plate and deal with a problem and that he could function under extreme duress."
But Lonegan added that because "bridge-gate happened under this watch, the governor will suffer some. If this happened under a Democratic governor, the Democrats would be taking a very different approach."
"I don't believe he directed bridge-gate," William Eames, co-founder of the Morris (N.J.) Patriots tea party group, told Newsmax.
Although he pointed out that he had differences with Christie over several issues such as the governor keeping the state from appealing a court ruling permitting same-sex marriage, Eames said he found Christie to be "generally trustworthy."
But Eames said that the issue could continue to plague Christie.
Eames said that "the investigation in the state Senate Transportation Committee would go on for some time. Gov. Christie put the facts on the table and took two hours of questions. Time will tell if his version was accurate and who was responsible for what."
Another well-known New Jersey conservative and tea party favorite, Anna Little, former Highlands Borough mayor and Monmouth County freeholder, agreed with Lonegan that Christie came off well after his news conference.
"At worst, I would say he's experiencing one of the hazards of having a staff, and that comes with being in elective office," she told Newsmax.
Some conservatives said Christie can be criticized for not knowing what was going on under his watch.
Carolee Adams, president of the New Jersey Eagle Forum, told Newsmax, "It's very hard to find it credible that the governor was clueless about bridge-gate. If he is truly innocent, then he can be condemned for being a 'missing in action governor.'"
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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