When Chris Christie was asked about his involvement in the closure of two lanes of the nation's busiest bridge on the first day of school, he swiped away the insinuation with his customary swaggering condescension: "I moved the cones, actually unbeknownst to everybody."
He may not have moved the cones, but the guy who did has now since resigned and there's little record or paper trail of the supposed traffic study that forced the bridge closure in the first place.
These combination of events have led Democratic lawmakers in the state to a troubling conclusion: The George Washington Bridge closure was political retribution for a Democratic mayor's failure to endorse Christie's re-election.
Hogwash, says Christie.
But the emerging facts aren't lining up with the administration's story, according to published reports.
- Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich declined to endorse Christie in August.
- The closure of two bridge lanes to his town was ordered Sept. 8 by one person -- a political appointee and old friend of Christie, David Wildstein.
- Christie's administration's explanation that the lanes were closed for a traffic study have been met with skepticism since a top Port Authority official said he knew nothing of the study. Local police, emergency officials and the New York Port Authority knew nothing about the alleged study either.
Christie's administration has sought to distance itself from the flaring controversy, declining to respond to the hearings being conducted by Democrats.
But these are the kind of hard-handed tactics that may not go over as well with the rest of the country as they do in New Jersey, which has been numbed to political patronage and corruption stories.
And it may just be compelling evidence to undermine one of Christie's great strengths: That he works well with the other side of the aisle.
A take-no-prisoners, by-any-means approach is just what he's lamented as the root of evil in Washington.
If the case can be made that he has a history of punishing those who cross him, it undercuts his case of being an honest deal broker.
The Sopranos characterization is a bit much, but more stories like this could conjure up those images for far-flung voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.