The Star-Ledger, the largest-circulation newspaper in New Jersey, said Sunday it regrets endorsing Republican Gov. Chris Christie's re-election bid.
"Yes, we knew Christie was a bully," the Newark-based newspaper's editorial page editor wrote Sunday.
"But we didn't know his crew was crazy enough to put people's lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor. We didn't know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn't know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno."
The Star-Ledger endorsed Christie last October
, a month before his landslide re-election victory. But on Sunday, the newspaper said that it rethought the endorsement after Christie's administration was accused of being behind lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September, just weeks before the newspaper endorsed the then-popular governor.
Tom Moran wrote that the newspaper's editorial board had "hesitations" before it endorsed Christie's re-election bid. Even in that endorsement, the newspaper was unflattering about the governor, but considered him the lesser of two evils.
"Our own view is that Christie is overrated," the original endorsement said. "His spin is way ahead of his substance."
But the newspaper chose Christie over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono because it considered her a "weak opponent" and a "deeply flawed candidate."
It also reasoned that "voters have to push one button or the other, and we felt The Star-Ledger should belly up to the challenge and offer them our best advice."
On Sunday, Moran wrote that "an endorsement is not a love embrace. It is a choice between two flawed human beings. And the winner is often the less bad option," but that "yes, we blew this one."
"Even before this scandal train got rolling, this endorsement was a close call and a split vote among the editorial board," said Moran. "We regard Christie as the most overrated politician in the country, at least until now, a man who is better at talking than governing."
But even though the newspaper regrets endorsing Christie as governor, that regret doesn't necessarily extend to the presidential nominations in 2016, said Moran, as candidates including Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul or Sen. Ted Cruz are "waiting to pick up the pieces."
"If one of the tea party favorites gets the Republican nomination, then the country is at risk," Moran writes. "At the risk of repeating a mistake, I’d pick Christie in that primary, even now."
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