Even though he's been tarnished by the Bridge-gate scandal, there's no reason New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie can't be a viable GOP presidential candidate in 2016, veteran Republican campaign consultant Ed Rollins says.
"There’s no reason Gov. Christie shouldn't run. He has had two big victories in a Democrat state and he's a very credible candidate," Rollins, the senior political analyst for Fox News, told "The Steve Malzberg Show'' on Newsmax TV.
"He's done a very effective job as chairman of the Republicans Governors Association, raised a ton of money, he has a lot of friends across this country, and a lot of people want him to run."
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Christie won't be able to escape ongoing scrutiny surrounding his former top aides' orchestration of a four-day traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge for political payback, but he should survive, Rollins noted.
"The danger of Bridge-gate was always, you open yourself up to a whole bunch of investigations by Democrats and by U.S. attorneys and what have you,'' Rollins said.
"But at the end of the day if they can't tie him to anything, any illegal or improper activity, my sense is his premise is correct that he basically is home free and free to go govern the state for the next couple of years.
"And if he wants to go run for president, he's done well in the polls."
Rollins — national campaign director for the Reagan-Bush ticket in 1984, and national campaign chairman for Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential bid — called the GOP landscape for 2016 "wide open.'
"For the first time in modern history there's not a front-runner, there's not someone who basically is the heir apparent,'' Rollins said. "And to a certain extent that's going to be a good positive thing for us."
Rollins believes Republican strategist Karl Rove — who sparked outrage by reportedly suggesting that Hillary Clinton may have suffered brain damage from a 2009 blood clot — is a lightning rod no matter what he says.
"Karl, who I have a great deal of respect for, basically is the boogeyman to a lot of Democrats," Rollins said.
"He's a guy who ran two very successful presidential campaigns and obviously kept a presidency that was struggling through two wars alive, he's a point person on Fox, a very smart guy.
"And if someone else were to raise it … it might not have had quite the same [impact], but Karl raised it and they basically fired back on him."
But Rollins said the former Secretary of State's health is a legitimate issue.
"I have not seen any sign that Mrs. Clinton is not functioning perfectly well, but a campaign is a tough, rough time frame and we'll see if she chooses to run in two years," he said.
"Only she can make up her mind to do that. How she performs and obviously if there's any sign of any slippage you know then certainly people will watch it and jump on it."
Clinton, who has yet to declare her candidacy, isn't necessarily a shoo-in if she wins, according to Rollins.
"We have a great chance even against her. We have a great chance because Obama is going to drag this Democratic Party in this country down to such a low level," he said.
Rollins told Malzberg he is "surprised" that House Speaker John Boehner has been nudging former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to run in 2016.
"[When] you've got six, seven, eight very serious people out there talking about it, that he would jump out at this point in time and almost seems like it can be an endorsement,'' Rollins said.
"If Jeb Bush wants to run for president, he'll be a very viable candidate … It won't be a coronation, he'll have to go fight, he'll have to show that he still has skills that he had when he was governor and as a campaigner.
"Everybody's not going to step aside if he gets in the race and to a certain extent, we're going to have a very, very strong field ... We've got four, five governors that will be in this race before all is said and done."
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