Bridge Scandal A Make-Pr-Break Test For NJ Governor On Road To White House

Likely 2016 U.S. Republican presidential contender Chris Christie is facing his first test in a bid to take the White House amid a scandal that has rocked his administration and grabbed national headlines.

At issue is whether the governor of the U.S. state of New Jersey can survive a scandal whereby his administration allegedly orchestrated the closure of two lanes of a bridge to neighboring New York City, causing major traffic jams, in an effort to punish a local New Jersey mayor for not endorsing Christie's re-election bid.

What's more, paramedics trying to reach a 91-year-old woman got stuck in traffic during four days of lane closure in September, and the woman died after suffering a cardiac arrest, according to news reports.

In response, Christie fired a staffer allegedly responsible for the plot and the usually bombastic and at times confrontational governor appeared apologetic at a news conference Thursday.

Some experts said Christie's two-hour press briefing was a wise move, wearing down reporters and allowing them to ask any and all questions on their minds in a bid to put the scandal behind him as soon as possible.

"This has very serious potential to blunt his 2016 aspirations. But only time will tell whether he's down for the count," Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

"Yes, he can survive this. But if he survives it and doesn't keep his crossover appeal intact, his 2016 chances are definitely blunted," O'Connell said, referring to Christie's appeal to people on both sides of the political divide.

"Thus far, he's said and done the right things. From a PR perspective, he did all that he could do," he said.

If Christie wins the GOP primary in the lead-up to the 2016 elections, he would have to beat likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"The reason he's leading her (Clinton) in the polls right now is his crossover appeal," O'Connell said. That means he cannot just survive the scandal, but must continue to appeal to both Republicans and swing voters, he added.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Analysis & Political Strategy