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How Badly Has the Traffic Lane Fiasco Hurt Chris Christie?

The Democrats hope to use “Bridgegate” to knock Chris Christie out of the box as a potential presidential contender. That may yet happen, but if the polls surveyed by Politico are correct, New Jersey voters haven’t been much impressed by the scandal:

The Pew Research Center poll reports that 60 percent of adults say their opinion of Christie has not changed since revelations that top aides were involved in politically motivated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Only 16 percent of of those surveyed say they now view the New Jersey governor less favorably and 6 percent say they now view him more favorably.

Even those modest numbers likely overstate the impact of the incident on voters. Some of the 16% are no doubt Democrats who already couldn’t stand Christie, but want to give the “right” answer to show their disapproval. Some of the 6%, likewise, are no doubt Christie loyalists trying to show their support by saying they like him even better after the bridge scandal.

A second poll supports the conclusion that Christie hasn’t been badly hurt by the scandal:

A Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll shows that while Christie’s approval rating has dropped 6 percentage points in light of the scandal, his approval still stands at 59 percent.

In that same poll, only one-third of New Jerseyans think Christie was personally involved in the decision to close lanes of traffic on the bridge. Fifty-two percent of Garden Staters say they don’t think Christie was involved. Only 30 percent of those following the story say they now trust Christie less, while two-thirds say their level of trust hasn’t changed.

How can the bridge scandal have had so little impact, given that it has been hyped non-stop by Democrats in the New York, New Jersey and national media? I think the answer lies at least in part in today’s sharp partisan divide. We see something similar with President Obama: despite all the scandals, the assaults on our liberties, the Obamacare disaster, the manifest incompetence of his administration, the lousy economy–for five years now!–and his many failures in foreign policy, 40% of Americans still say they approve of his performance.

It is apparent that most voters are locked into one party, or one philosophy, or the other. It is hard to imagine what Barack Obama would have to do to get his approval rating much below 40%. Be revealed as a child molester, maybe. I’m not sure anything else would do it. Christie is a somewhat different case, as he is approved of by quite a few New Jersey voters who are not Republicans, and may not be conservatives. But even here, a favorable impression once formed is evidently difficult to shake. Frustratingly difficult, the Democrats must be thinking.

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