GOP operatives are divided over what effect news that a former aide to the governor may have destroyed Bridgegate evidence by deleting text messages will have on Trump’s campaign, for which Christie serves as transition planning chief.
Federal court filings on Wednesday show that the aide, Christina Renna, claimed in a text message that the governor “flat out lied” when he said during a December 2013 press conference his campaign manager and senior staff had no knowledge of politically motivated George Washington bridge lane closures. Christie said the aide’s claim isn’t true.
“In a normal year, you’d assume someone with an ethical cloud over his head would be asked to step down from the campaign,” said Edward “Ted” Newton, a senior communications adviser to the Romney-Ryan 2012 campaign who led its research effort for vice-presidential vetting.
“This year, though, it seems anything goes. So while Trump is insulting Gold Star families and encouraging supporters to shoot Hillary Clinton, I don’t think he’s too concerned about Christie’s ethics problems.”
Even anti-Trump militants in the GOP say that the background role of a transition chief mitigates the fallout because Trump creates his own outrage on a regular basis.
“The outrage meter is already being tested a few times a week on something else,” said Dave Kochel, the chief strategist to Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida’s abortive presidential campaign.
He adds that nothing about Trump seems to suggest he cares about the appearance of impropriety, whether legal or social.
“If Trump were to be successful, I think he’d be loyal to be his friends,” said Kochel.
“My guess is that Trump would move forward and not let this affect his decisions. You’d have to see something pretty bad come out at trial.”
Another top GOP operative notes that a Trump victory is becoming less likely, making the latest Christie crisis smaller potatoes to a beleaguered Republican nominee.
New polls in the key battleground states of Colorado and Virginia show Clinton ahead by 14 and 13 points, respectively. In North Carolina, Clinton is up by 9 points, and she’s ahead in Florida by 5 points.
“At this point I’m not sure it matters,” said Reed Galen, deputy campaign manager to U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid. “The campaign is a shambles. If Trump wins it will be as near a political miracle as I can remember.”
Galen said that “if Christie is further implicated, they may ask him to step aside, but hard to see what difference it makes now.”