Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will return to bread and butter themes of bipartisan cooperation and Washington gridlock in his second inaugural address Tuesday as his administration continues to fend off allegations about strong-arm political tactics.
“We have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes the media and pundits put us in,” Christie will say, according to prepared remarks released by his office. “We have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us; we have to be willing to personally reach out a helping hand to a neighbor suffering from drug addiction, depression or the dignity stripping loss of a job.”
That is a message that helped the Republican cruise to re-election by 22 points last November and propelled him to the top of the GOP presidential contender list in 2016. Christie’s momentum was stalled earlier this month by allegations his aides ordered the closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in an apparent act of political retribution.
The scrutiny has only grown more intense, with the latest accusation coming over the weekend from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. She charged that members of Christie’s administration, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy relief funds unless she approved a real estate project.
Guadagno called Zimmer’s version of events “not only false, but illogical,” during an appearance Monday. “The suggestion that anyone would hold back Sandy relief funds for any reason is wholly and completely false,” she told reporters.
The Pew Research Center released a poll Monday that showed the bridge scandal had caused substantial damage to Christie’s image:
Most Americans say they have heard either a lot (45%) or a little (28%) about Christie’s aides ordering the closure of highway traffic lanes last year, which resulted in major traffic jams in northern New Jersey. Among those who have heard about the incident, 58% say they do not believe Christie when he said he had no knowledge of his aides’ involvement until it became public; 32% say they believe Christie’s assertion that he was unaware of his aides’ role.
While the excerpts of Tuesday’s remarks do not mention the bridge controversy, they do signal what Christie sees as his way to move beyond it. Instead of the brash straight-talk he often delivers in public settings, the Republican appears to be focused on setting a more inclusive tone.
“One of the lessons that I have learned most acutely over the last four years is that New Jersey can really be one state,” Christie is expected to say. “This election has taught us that the ways we divide each other – by race, by class, by ethnicity, by wealth, by political party is neither permanent nor necessary. Our dreams are the same: a good job, a great education for our children, safe streets in our neighborhood and core values which give our lives real meaning. Those dreams are not unique to any one group in our state.”
Christie will also look to take advantage of his distance from Washington politics, which faces dismally low public approval ratings. “We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C. The attitude that says I am always right and you are always wrong. The attitude that puts everyone into a box they are not permitted to leave. The attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements. The belief that compromise is a dirty word,” Christie will say.
Recent events appear to have put Christie’s 2016 thinking on hold, with the Republican telling a group of donors in Florida over the weekend that they should follow up with him next year. In an interview with Yahoo’s Matt Bai, Christie said he fully intended to “learn” from the experience and proclaimed himself to be “readier” for a presidential bid should it come to pass.
In a sign of the twists and turns that still could come, the Star-Ledger reports that the Christie administration scuttled plans three years ago to name Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis “youth fitness ambassador” after the track and field star announced he would run for the state Senate as a Democrat. Lewis told the newspaper he “felt like [Christie] was trying to intimidate me.”
While Christie’s image has taken a hit, his ratings haven’t collapsed. The challenge for the Republican going forward will be whether he can minimize the damage from the bridge scandal and hold his approval steady at a time when the calendar reads January 2014 and there are no rivals to help deflect the glare of the spotlight.
- Politico’s Maggie Haberman reports that President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, will join former Florida governor Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial bid as a senior strategic adviser.
- The Tea Party Express announced Tuesday in an email that Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, will deliver the group’s response to the president’s State of the Union address next week. The Republican Party hasn’t chosen who will make their response speech, though that hasn’t stopped Politico from rounding up 10 possible candidates.
- The Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a copyright infringement case over film classic “Raging Bull.” The court also hears a case about union organizing for taxpayer-funded home-care workers.
- President Barack Obama made meals for the homeless at DC Central Kitchen on Monday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. day and the national day of service.
- The AP’s Tom Beaumont looks at the state of the GOP’s rebranding strategy one year after the Republican National Committee released an “autopsy” of the 2012 election.
- The Washington Post’s Reid Wilson traveled to Iowa, where he found a fight for the soul of the Republican Party led by Gov. Terry Brandstad.
- Oklahoma GOP Rep. James Lankford announced Monday he would seek the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Tom Coburn, who said last week that he planned to step down at the end of the year. The Hill’s Alexandra Jaffe looks at two potential candidates who could challenge Lankford for the GOP nomination.
- It’s the Club for Growth versus … dentists? Endorsing his tea party challenger, the Club has named Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, a close ally of Speaker Boehner’s, its first target of 2014. The American Dental Association, National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher reports, isn’t about to stand by and let one of their own be defeated.
- The House GOP’s retreat at the end of the month will feature an open session on an immigration policy rewrite. The document Speaker John Boehner circulates ahead of time is expected to address the legal status of undocumented immigrants, which GOP leaders have so far been afraid to touch.
- David Remnick of the New Yorker profiled Mr. Obama and considered the president’s second-term legacy in a long piece based on hours of exclusive interviews at the White House and aboard Air Force One.
- Mr. Obama will meet with Pope Francis during a trip to the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy in late March, the White House announced Tuesday.
- A Pennsylvania judge has ruled unconstitutional the state’s requirement that voters show a photo ID at the polls. The requirement had not yet been enforced.
- Politico Magazine’s Susan Glasser sat down with three retiring House GOP lawmakers for an extended conversation about why they’re leaving Congress and what needs to be done to break through partisan gridlock.
- Otis Pike, former chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence in the 1970s, died Monday at age 92.
- There are three openly gay Republicans running or expected to run to unseat Democratic incumbents in the House. Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe, who retired in 2006, was the last openly gay Republican to serve in Congress, but he had not come out when first elected.
- Advocates for the mentally ill are lobbying the Virginia legislature, the Washington Post reports, as lawmakers consider what safeguards could have helped Gus Deeds, the son of prominent Democratic state Senator Creigh Deeds who stabbed his father and killed himself this fall.
- Sundance Film Festival previewed and Netflix will release Friday the documentary “Mitt,” which chronicles Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 failed presidential campaigns. The New York Times’ Ashley Parker interviewed the Republican after the premiere.
- Bloomberg News’ Julie Bykowicz profiled Ready for Hillary founder and executive director Adam Parkhomenko, who once took a college class that critiqued the fledgling Super PAC without knowing its founder was among the students.
- The New York Times’ Jennifer Medina profiled former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who now leads the University of California system. Napolitano faces the challenge of balancing her work with the Obama administration’s immigrant deportation policies and her leadership for a large number of undocumented students.
- The Toronto Star details how the media broke the story that Mayor Rob Ford smoked crack cocaine.
- White House crasher Tareq Salahi says he is running for office again.
- Ahead of his retirement this week, veteran Columbus Dispatch political reporter Joe Hallett reflected on his four decades in journalism.
- The Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender reports “The Most Interesting Man in the World” is on a mission to remove land mines from old battlefields.
- Gwen Ifill spoke with members of the tech industry about their reactions to Mr. Obama’s Friday speech on data surveillance for national security. The panel included Christian Dawson, co-founder and chairman of the Internet Infrastructure Coalition and Nuala O’Connor, incoming president of the Center for Democracy and Technology.
- Stephen Fee reported on the Martin Luther King Jr. speech heard in November for the first time in more than 50 years. King spoke during the 100th anniversary commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in 1962, and until a museum intern discovered the recording last year, an annotated copy was the only known record of the address.
- Columnists David Brooks and Ruth Marcus discussed Mr. Obama’s surveillance speech and the Senate report on Benghazi.
- Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.
Buying cans of evaporated milk and prepping safe room in expectation of The Stand-like situation tomorrow during DC snow storm.
— The Fix (@TheFix) January 20, 2014
Due to the impending snow, the Zoo is closed today. Stay safe!
— National Zoo (@NationalZoo) January 21, 2014
Was gonna go to National Security lecture today…but I’m Snowden *ba dum tss*
— Andy Soergel (@ASoergel) January 21, 2014
A Republican VS Democratic Snow Battle at the Capitol, Washington D.C. 1921. pic.twitter.com/KveIeSfq2C
— History In Pictures (@HistoryInPics) January 20, 2014
— Matt Romney (@Matt_Romney) January 21, 2014
— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 17, 2014
Simone Pathe and Ruth Tam contributed to this report.
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