Christie predicts bridge controversy will be 'footnote'

More than four months since Bridgegate interrupted his national ascent, Gov. Christie said in Washington Wednesday that the scandal hadn’t imperiled a presidential bid.

Instead, Christie said, the controversy will be seen as a “footnote” to his career.

“As far as the impact on my political future, I think it will have none, because I didn’t do anything,” Christie said at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit, an event that also featured a talk from former President Bill Clinton. Christie’s remarks were streamed online by the event.

Christie was dismissive of the ongoing investigations into the George Washington Bridge lane closures, saying they had turned up no information he was involved.

He said he was still weighing a run for president, but would decide “later.”

Elaborating on a comment he made on a call-in program on NJ 101.5 Tuesday night, Christie said it would be “stressful” to run in a Republican primary against former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, because “I like him. I respect him.” Christie said he is friendly with Bush and his brother, former President George W. Bush.

“So who do you not like?” interviewer Bob Schieffer asked.

“I don’t want to tell someone I don’t like them and then” they don’t run, Christie said. He joked that it would be a “wasted unlike.”

Christie also fielded questions Wednesday on New Jersey’s economy, which has been troubled: The budget has an $800 million revenue shortfall, and all three major credit-rating agencies have recently downgraded the state’s debt, citing the revenue problems and rising pension costs.

Christie – who said the state’s fiscal problems were characteristic of a comeback that “has been exceptional, but not complete” – didn’t detail how he planned to address the revenue shortfall, saying he would lay out a course next week.

He didn’t say whether he would make a scheduled $1.6 billion payment this year into the state pension system – another question he said would be addressed next week.

Christie addressed other national topics, including whether Republicans would benefit politically from calling for raising the minimum wage.

“I’ve always thought good policy is good politics, but you have to explain yourself,” said Christie, who opposed a ballot measure widely approved by voters that raised New Jersey’s minimum wage $1 this year, instead supporting a $1 increase over three years. “What our party needs to be focused on is explaining ourselves, and not appearing to be intolerant.”

Christie said that if Republicans win control of both chambers of Congress, it could alleviate gridlock with President Obama on certain economic measures, including “meaningful” tax reform.

He blamed the gridlock on a lack of leadership by Obama, drawing a contrast between Washington and Trenton.

If both Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), are at the Statehouse on a given day, they meet – whether it’s for five minutes, or “two-hour meetings that devolve into dinner,” Christie said. He said that when Sweeney gives his word on something, “I can count on it,” and vice versa.

“I don’t think this is a president that’s been interested in having those relationships, with either party,” Christie said of Obama. “So I think the problem starts with the president.”