New Jersey paper: We "blew" Chris Christie endorsement in 2013

The New Jersey Star-Ledger has a new take on their endorsement of Gov. Chris Christie, the state’s scandal-mired Republican governor, during his reelection bid last year: “We blew this one.”

The paper’s editorial page editor, Tom Moran, wrote a mea culpa about the decision to endorse Christie despite their deep reservations over his aggressive style of governing now that it has come to light that members of his administration shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge last fall as an act of political retaliation against the city’s Democratic mayor.

“An endorsement is not a love embrace. It is a choice between two flawed human beings. And the winner is often the less bad option,” Moran wrote. “Yes, we knew Christie was a bully. But we didn’t know his crew was crazy enough to put people’s lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor. We didn’t know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn’t know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno,” a reference to other allegations against Christie that have emerged since the scandal first came to light.

When the paper gave their endorsement in late October, they cited “a deeply flawed candidate” in Christie’s opponent, State Sen. Barbara Buono, and said they were endorsing Christie “despite the deep reservations” about his refusal to meet with them, rising property taxes, a “hostile” attitude toward low-income families, his stance on the environment and his claims to have fixed the state budget.

In the apology article, Moran wrote that the paper opted not to skip making an endorsement, as the New York Times did, because, “voters have to push one button or the other, and we felt The Star-Ledger should belly up to the challenge and offer them our best advice.”

Christie has attempted to steer his second term back on track and recently embarked on a cross-country fundraising and event tour in his capacity as the head of the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA). But the scandal, under investigation on multiple fronts, has largely prevented any return to normalcy.

"This has become a major distraction for him and his team," David Gergen, a political analyst who served as a White House adviser to four presidents, told the Associated Press. "They are having to fight back on various fronts."

That New Jersey hosted the Super Bowl this year mainly meant sustained focus on his administration’s trials rather than a significant boost on the national stage. The state’s Democrats are feeling emboldened, and the Senate Judiciary Committee has indefinitely postponed a confirmation hearing on Christie's chief of staff Kevin O'Dowd who is a nominee for state attorney general, the AP wrote. His name was mentioned in emails surrounding the bridge closing.

But for all his hand-wringing, Moran said the public should not be so quick to criticize as they could wind up in the same dilemma, positing a scenario in which Christie would face Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for the GOP nomination.

“At the risk of repeating a mistake, I’d pick Christie in that primary, even now. And if you think that makes some sense, then you understand how excruciating the endorsement process can be,” he said. 

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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