LAS VEGAS (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is dismissing his administration's traffic scandal as "a footnote" in his political future. Some in the GOP's elite business class may be close to dismissing him as a serious contender for the party nomination in 2016.
Shortly after Christie discussed his White House ambitions in Washington on Wednesday, Republican donors gathered for a hedge fund conference in Las Vegas shared a decidedly pessimistic view of Christie's presidential prospects. Even self-proclaimed Christie fans said his political brand probably has suffered permanent damage, acknowledging they've been forced to look elsewhere for a business-friendly presidential contender.
State and federal investigators continue to probe an apparent political retribution plot within the Christie administration that caused massive traffic delays along the George Washington Bridge last fall. Christie has fired several senior aides and denied direct prior knowledge of the incident.
Thomas Norris, chief investment officer at Michigan-based NFI Advisors, compared Christie's repeated denials to those of President Richard Nixon, who resigned after years of claiming no involvement in the Watergate scandal.
"Is it enough to tarnish his chances? It sure is," Norris, a Republican, said during a break at the annual Skybridge Alternatives conference. The event drew hundreds of financial industry executives — many prominent Republican donors among them — to Las Vegas this week.
Earlier in the day, Christie signaled his interest in a presidential bid in unusually strong terms while appearing at a Washington fiscal summit. Asked if he's thinking of running in 2016 and when he'll make a decision, Christie said, "Yes, and later."
By then, Christie said, the traffic controversy "will be a footnote." He told reporters, "There hasn't been one suggestion that I knew anything."
Christie was considered a front-runner in the race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination before the New Jersey scandal erupted. The GOP's tea party wing was reluctant to embrace him, but he was particularly popular among the less ideological financial industry executives who pump tens of millions of dollars into presidential campaigns every four years.