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GRAPEVINE: Bridgegate a no-show at Walk to Washington

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“Who wants to talk about Bridgegate anymore?” That was the seemingly defeatist sentiment expressed by one attendee at last week's Walk to Washington event put on by the state Chamber of Commerce.

It was a feeling shared by many in the business community over the course of the two-day event in Washington, D.C.

In a keynote address to guests last week, Gov. Chris Christie himself made no reference to the scandal. The closest anyone got to saying the B-word was chamber President Tom Bracken, who in his introductory remarks noted that "we cannot let the current distractions consume us."

In case you were wondering, "distractions" is a code word here.

"We need to keep our focus on the business community," Bracken said.

Save for the Wednesday morning reporters' roundtable event, which largely focused on the scandal, Bridgegate was not the word on the tips of everybody's tongues last week.

It was a nice change.

But one source says the lack of interest in the issue from the business community is not particularly surprising, noting that it's not in the nature of business leaders to care about whether or not lanes were closed down for three days on the George Washington Bridge.

At least, not for too long.

"Come on, life goes on," the source said.

What's more important to the business community, the source said, is that "the work of the state has to continue."

Did Christie unveil a 2016 stump speech last week?

If you were in attendance at last week's Walk to Washington event or one of the 15 viewers on C-SPAN, according to Gov. Chris Christie's count, then you most likely caught the governor's speech April 22.

For the most part, Christie repeated himself on many fronts. He called on the state Legislature to renew the now-expired 2 percent interest arbitration cap and warned about the consequences the state could face if it doesn't move toward bipartisan reform on pension and health benefit payments.

He also hit on the reasons why he loved his job and noted that, even though he'll never run for political office in New Jersey again, he didn't want to leave a fiscal mess around for the next governor to take the office.

While it could have been captivating for anyone who hasn't heard a Christie speech in the last few months, it was just more of the same rhetoric for those who have.

But that's exactly the point.

With C-SPAN covering the event live, Christie knew he had a brand-new audience to reach and made an effort to speak about New Jersey in the national context, referring to "American greatness" on occasion, using the state as a model.

For one thing, Christie was only scheduled to speak for about 12 minutes. He went on for more than 30.

Many in the media ran with it, noting that it sounded awfully like a 2016 presidential stump speech to them.

It could have been, but as one source puts it, he needed something like that to reclaim his podium. There were no Bridgegate references, just Christie being Christie.

"This was a good getting back to where he needs to be (speech)," the source said.

Expect a few more of them.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

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