I have two theories why Bridgegate is generating so much media attention when it is, at heart, a story about one single bridge and not, say, a story about a president and his inner circle leaving four Americans to die and they lying about it. Both theories are simple. Are you ready for them? Here goes. This is some high-level political science at work, so stand back. This could get quite technical.
1. Chris Christie is a Republican.
2. Many national network and newspaper reporters either use that bridge or know people who use that bridge.
Theory 1 is about the bias that naturally and unnaturally unfolds when 90% of the national press corp are self-identified Democrats or liberals, Theory 2 is about how the media cares more about what goes on in their own back yards than anything that goes on anywhere else. They’re parochial. They would report far less about closing down a bridge if that bridge wasn’t connected to Manhattan.
So there are my theories. Pew backs them to up to an extent, with a poll that shows that hardly anyone other than the media cares about the bridge at all.
The public paid far more attention to last week’s cold snap than to the controversy swirling around New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. There also has been little short-term change in opinions about Christie: 60% say their opinion of Christie has not changed in recent days, while 16% now view him less favorably and 6% more favorably.
The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 9-12 among 1,006 adults, finds that just 18% paid very close attention to Christie’s apology on Jan. 9 for the highway lane closures ordered by his aides. By contrast, 44% very closely followed news about the cold winter weather that gripped much of the U.S. and 28% tracked news about the economy.
Let’s pull out one more number. After Bridgegate, Christie has really taken a wallop in his job approval. He dropped like a stone, from 60% approval all the way down to 59% approval.
Clearly, it’s time for him to resign. </sarc>
Christie is still in a tough spot, though. The whole thing looks indefensible, and he won’t have many Republicans stepping up to defend him. The Democrats are all too happy to keep beating on it and building on it if for no other reasons than to dent him and distract from Obamacare. Bridgegate may even go away for a while, but it will resurface in the presidential election if he’s on the ticket. From the left, he’s a Republican, and they’ll argue that he abused his power and killed an old lady, even if there’s still no evidence that either actually occurred. From the right, skepticism of Christie had already been growing and this business won’t help.