Many Democrats are swooning at the news relating to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's office's direct involvement in closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge (the world's busiest bridge), which created a historic traffic jam for days. When the story first broke four months ago, it appeared as if Christie did not have anything to do with it and it was just small-ball political payback from a few high-tempered Christie loyalists against Fort Lee's mayor who backed Christie's opponent in last November's gubernatorial election. As the story has progressed, however, many are skeptical about Christie's "plausible deniability" in the matter given new emails going as high up as Christie's deputy chief-of-staff.
The reason Democrats are so cheerful at this apparently reprehensible abuse of power is that this scandal has been extremely bad press for one of the more popular and brighter faces in the Republican Party. Christie won his last election by a landslide in a very blue state and was thought to be the Republican, and potentially the overall, frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race.
While this scandal drastically damages Christie's public persona, brand, and management abilities casting a dark cloud over a prospective 2016 executive run, Democrats need a candidate like Christie on the other side to keep things on an even keel. It behooves the Democratic pool to put forth the best candidates it can in order to make a worthy challenge to a power player like Christie.
Despite it being politically eons away from 2016, the shortlist of presidential candidates is weak for both sides. For the Democrats, Hilary Clinton is being touted as the frontrunner. Clinton, who served two terms in the Senate, will be hard pressed to escape the Republican inquisitions regarding the attack on the Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya as she was Secretary of State at the time. She also suffered from health problems toward the end of her tenure in the State Department and that could play a role during the grueling campaign cycle. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has also been mentioned. Warren is only a first term senator and to date is only known for being tough on Wall Street - not necessarily enough to take on the breadth of the presidency. Experience is also against her. Despite our sitting president only serving one term in the Senate, it has been made clear that management has not been his strong suit. Vice President Joe Biden has also been mentioned but Biden, 71, is highly gaffe-prone.
Secretary of State John Kerry's name is rumored to have been floated. Currently, he would be the party's strongest candidate despite his failed run in 2004. He has served 28 years in the Senate and thus far has proved himself a worthy negotiator working out a temporary deal with Iran to scale back their controversial nuclear program. He also has close ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is a respected member of the US foreign delegation. His wife has had some serious health problems recently and I believe that that will deter Kerry from seeking higher office.
As long as Christie maintains his national popularity, it keeps the pressure on Democrats to deliver a worthy counterpart. Democrats have taken a huge hit with the failed rollout of the Affordable Care Act; they cannot let up on the gas pedal if they want to keep the ACA out of the clutches of a Republican repeal effort. It seems as though when compared to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Democrats' short list holds a slight edge.
Christie's landslide victory last November was a game changer for the Republican field because it negated a possible Tea Party candidate from running, it strengthened the Republican Party nationally with a moderate figure who is capable of working across the aisle, and it put pressure on Democrats not to let up. While Democrats may think Christie's scandal is good for them, they need an antagonist to keep them honest.