Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is clearly trying to move beyond so-called “Bridgegate.”
The Republican appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on Thursday night. He danced on stage, cracked jokes about his recent troubles and even weighed in on his chances of beating Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical 2016 matchup for president.
Christie is no stranger to late-night television. Thursday's interview was his fourth with Fallon, but his first foray back into such comedy shows since his administration was rocked by allegations that some of his staffers and allies closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge -- seemingly for political retribution.
Since then, Fallon and rock star Bruce Springsteen (of whom Christie is a diehard fan) famously mocked the governor’s bridge scandal in a parody of “Born to Run” on Fallon’s show.
But that didn’t stop Christie -- considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate -- from appearing on “The Tonight Show” and having some fun.
When Fallon asked if the governor thinks he could beat Clinton -- an early frontrunner among 2016 Democratic presidential contenders -- Christie responded: “Hypothetically, you bet.” Fallon then pondered: “In a dance off?” And the governor joked: “That’s what I was talking about. What were you talking about?”
The comedian brought up the lane closure plot, noting “you had a scandal happen.” Christie pretended to have no idea what he was referring to, shrugging his shoulders and asking Fallon: “What are you talking about?” Fallon then referred to himself making fun of Christie on his own show, to which the governor leaned in and disappointedly shook his head.
“I’m very sorry,” said Fallon, acting as if he was scared. “I accept your apology,” responded Christie.
Christie’s weight also became the brunt of jokes. Fallon at one point suggested that the Garden State governor ate three of his childrens’ lunches. Christie pretended to walk off stage, criticizing the host for initially saying he looked great and commenting on how much weight he had lost at the beginning of the interview (Christie got lapband surgery last year). “It shows what a putz you are. You go right to the weight jokes. Come on already!” he said, seemingly half serious and half joking.
Comedian and New Jersey resident Chris Rock was also on the show and couldn’t help but poke fun of Christie’s weight. “He might be president some day, or at least run for it -- or at least jog to it … He aint running,” joked Rock.
Rock also referred to Christie “closing up the bridge.” Fallon noted that the governor has said he had no prior knowledge of the plot, to which Rock said sarcastically “yeah, yeah, yeah.”
The governor later joked that Rock’s house “is foreclosed on now.”
Christie’s administration is under several federal and state investigations related to the scandal.
According to the latest invoices released this week, lawyers hired by the governor billed the state $2.16 million in February. Add that to the approximate $1.1 million spent on work in January and the total jumps to $3.26 million -- for now. That number is expected to increase for state taxpayers, as billable work starting in March has not been made public.
Despite Christie’s popularity taking a hit in the aftermath of the scandal, the governor has insisted that he does not think the lane closure scandal will make a difference to voters should he run for president in 2016.
In fact, Christie is revving up his fundraising trips on behalf of the Republican Governors Association, which he chairs. He has plans to visit the early voting states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina this summer. The trips are sure to generate buzz that Christie is seriously considering a bid for the Oval Office.
Christie has said he doesn’t intend to make a decision on running for commander-in-chief until a year from now. The latest RealClearPolitics average of polling data from March 18 to May 4 surrounding the 2016 GOP presidential nomination shows Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tied in the lead with 13% each. Christie is in fourth place behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.