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Grapevine: Christie back to work after 'great week'

Gov. Chris Christie had a pretty good week. According to one source in the business community, it was a “great week,” but that’s a stretch given that one of his closest former allies, ex-Attorney General and Port Authority Chair David Samson, was finally sentenced in federal court.

But that’s exactly the point. One of Christie’s most trusted advisers, the former chair of his transition team and by many accounts a mentor, had his ugliest day in court and, yet, the governor is still here being patted on the back for having a good week.

Part of it is public fatigue over Bridgegate and maybe even Christie himself. That’s understandable.

But Christie also spent the bulk of last week speaking out on criminal justice and drug rehabilitation reforms in an impassioned, yet sensible manner.

It’s a topic that he’s been winning on lately and has championed in recent months since national politics and the goings-on of President Donald Trump’s administration have seemingly taken a back seat in his world.

And the early returns are promising for the governor, who has seen his approval ratings drop to historic lows in the wake of Bridgegate and his own failed presidential run.

As one source puts it, these issues “are terrific politics for him, and play to both Democrats and Republicans.”

Another said Christie’s recent speeches “reminded many in New Jersey just how gifted and skilled (he) can be as a unifier.”

But what should a Republican lame-duck governor care about appealing to any voters, let alone Democrats? 

Sure, there’s the upcoming gubernatorial election later this year, and an improbable Republican win could do wonders for his legacy.

But looking long-term, any spurt of positivity as Christie closes out his tenure could aid him greatly in the future. We admittedly have short-term memories. With someone as politically talented as Christie, there’s no reason that, in a few years’ time, he can’t go from being remembered as a scandal-plagued governor to a reformer that learned from some mistakes and got results as a Republican in a blue state.

The telltale sign will be his approval rating upon leaving office and who New Jerseyans vote in as the next governor. 

They always say absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Lt. governor's efforts

Most political pundits haven’t given Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno much of a chance to win the race for governor this November.

“It’s the cyclical nature of politics,” one insider said. “I think people are tired of the Republicans and certainly tired of (Gov. Chris) Christie.”

Guadagno has attempted to distance herself from Christie, but even that hasn’t gone well.

First, there was the attempt to differ from him on the TTF bill.

“That didn’t make sense,” one insider said. “No one agreed with her.”

Now, she is apparently distancing herself from both Christie’s knowledge and his access to money.

“You don’t have to campaign with him, but why wouldn’t she want to get his advice,” one insider said. “He did win twice in a heavily Democratic state. I would think you would want to gain some of that knowledge.”

And money.

The insider said Guadagno also has pushed away some of his biggest donors.

“That really makes no sense,” the insider said. “You have to have the checks to get anything done.”

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

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