Dems Seek to Define Chris Christie Negatively

National party seeks to wound Christie early, as it did with Mitt Romney in 2012.

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The Democrats haven't forgotten Chris Christie and his potential as a 2016 Republican presidential candidate. Far from it. In fact, party strategists rarely miss an opportunity to assail the New Jersey governor as a right-wing zealot and an insensitive bully.

The latest example: an email to reporters in which a Democratic National Committee spokesman said, "It's been a tough few days in the press for Chris Christie, as the controversy continues to build around allegations that his political appointees closed lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge for political retribution."

Two lanes were shut down for four days, causing massive traffic jams earlier this year. The New Jersey Legislature is conducting an inquiry, generating negative headlines for Christie, who hasn't addressed the issue except for saying he didn't order the closures and mocking his critics for raising the issue.

The DNC spokesman questioned Christie's temperament and called his response condescending. "Governor Christie's condescension and swagger might be amusing to the late night talk show crowd, but now that he's looking to play on the national stage, he needs to realize that the rest of us don't find it as charming," the DNC spokesman said.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, smiles as he listens to a question from  Cindy McCain at a McCain Institute forum Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, in Phoenix.

"These are serious questions about the Christie administration's actions and conduct. Insulting those asking questions won't make them go away. He needs to drop the schtick and simply deliver some answers to the people of New Jersey."

DNC officials raised questions about whether the lanes were closed by a Christie political appointee to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for declining to endorse Christie in his re-election bid earlier this year. Christie won in a landslide. The political appointee in question has since resigned.

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The DNC's goal is to create negative perceptions of Christie to damage his standing, just as the Democrats did in defining former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney early in the 2012 presidential race. After months of being savaged, by the time Romney secured the Republican presidential nomination he was left with an image of a heartless plutocrat more interested in making money than helping others. Romney lost the 2012 election to President Obama. Christie is considering whether to run for president in 2016.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.