GOP Activists: Christie Past Worst of Scandal

WASHINGTON (AP) -

Chris Christie may have been nearly 200 miles away, but his struggles in New Jersey buzzed through the hallways of a Washington hotel this week as hundreds of Republican officials gathered to debate the GOP’s future.

Party activists defended Christie’s leadership, insisting this is no time to write his political obituary. But they also said it’s far too soon to grant him 2016 front-runner status.

Christie’s popularity has fallen in recent weeks amid revelations that senior members of his administration helped create massive traffic jams last fall, apparently to exact political retribution against a Democratic New Jersey mayor.

A roadblock for a possible presidential run? More like a speed bump, one activist said Friday. It could even help Christie among party conservatives by turning him into a martyr, said another.

A senior Christie adviser at the Republican National Committee meeting said the high-profile governor has already overcome the worst of his challenges.

“It’s a Democratic state — the Legislature is controlled by the Democrats — so I think they will attempt to drag it out as long as they can,” adviser Bill Palatucci.

Ron Kaufman, a senior adviser to 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, described Christie’s challenges as “maybe a speed bump” being “overblown” by the media.

“The bottom line is that Chris Christie is still, if not the biggest, one of the biggest draws in our party. He’s still one of the most popular Republican governors,” Kaufman said.