A Bridge Too Far for the Tea Party?

Christie will have bigger problems than a bridge closure if he wants to succeed in 2016.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Union City, N.J.

If you think it's too early for the media to cover the 2016 presidential race, Chris Christie has a bridge he'd like to sell you. Christie just made the invisible 2016 GOP presidential primary much easier to see.

When I lived in the New York City suburbs, I had many chances to get stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge. When I heard that there had been a major traffic snarl on the bridge, my first reaction was to wonder what all the fuss was about. Since bridge traffic is almost always tangled, it didn't sound like breaking news to me. It's big news only because it was a traffic jam created by the frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Let's face it: Christie and his people are bullies. Just ask Mitt Romney and his people and they will tell you about the nasty attempt to match the former Massachusetts governor and the current New Jersey governor on the 2012 GOP national ticket. In their book "Double Down," Mark Halperin and John Heilmann documented the problems the staid Romney staffers in Boston had with Christie's pushy people in Trenton during mating season.

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But I don't think the bridge controversy will hurt him much over the long haul. Even though the governor did not sound presidential when he passed the buck and the blame to an aide, I think voters might forgive the governor. Americans are as angry at and as frustrated with gridlock in Washington as New Yorkers are at the slowdowns on the GW. Some people might appreciate a president who is tough enough to take names and kick some ass in D.C.

As a Democratic consultant, Chris Christie scares me more than any of the other GOP presidential candidates. But he will have a tough time winning the nod of the Party of Tea, formerly known as the GOP. Like any elite National Football League quarterback, he will have to carefully thread the needle. Christie needs to provoke enough opposition from the tea party to make him attractive to moderate general election voters, but not enough to deny him the nomination. I know Tom Brady and Governor Christie, you're not Tom Brady.

Republican presidential hopefuls have been sniping at Christie for more than a year. Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., attacked Christie for being a "big government liberal." I'm sure no pun was intended. Recently, fellow governor Rick Perry, R-Texas, wondered whether "a conservative in New Jersey is a conservative in the rest of the country." Just imagine the flack Christie will take the month before the Iowa caucuses.

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Christie's appearance with David Letterman with donut in hand shows that the governor has a sense of humor and the common touch. But according to Halperin and Heilmann, Christie is a common man with uncommon tastes. While Christie was a U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush, the Department of Justice questioned his yen for expensive travel and pricey hotels. 

Christie may be the political version of NBA star Charles Barkley, the "round mound of rebound": A great player, but one who never wins a championship.

  • Read Susan Milligan: Chris Christie's Bridge Debacle Shows a Personality Problem
  • Read Lara Brown: New Poll Shows Political Independents Are on the Rise
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly, an insider's guide to politics and policy.