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Chris Christie: I won't step down as RGA Chair

Chris Christie said on Wednesday that he has no intention of giving up his seat as chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, listens as South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley speaks during a news conference at the Republican Governors Association's quarterly meeting on May 21, 2014 in New York.

Despite the ongoing scandal surrounding embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the lane closure plot on the George Washington Bridge, the GOPer said on Wednesday that he has no intention of giving up his seat as chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association.

Christie, at a news conference in the glitzy Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, pointed to the RGA’s record fundraising in recent months. During the first quarter of the year, the association raked in $23.5 million – almost double what the Democratic Governors Association raised in the same time period.

“Given the success that the RGA has had in the first five or six months of the leadership of me and Gov. Jindal in terms of raising money and expanding the map, I don’t think anybody is concerned whether or not me or Bobby can make the case,” said Christie. Jindal, governor of Louisiana, serves as vice chairman of the RGA.

Democrats see real opportunity to pick up Republican gubernatorial seats in the November election. The GOP is defending 22 seats this year compared to the Democrats who have 14 seats up for grabs.

At the conference, Christie was accompanied by fellow Govs. Mike Pence of Indiana, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. They were all in the city for the RGA’s quarterly meeting.

Haley -- who’s up for re-election in 2014 -- rushed to Christie’s defense when the Garden State politician was asked by a reporter about his future with the RGA. “We don’t want him to give up the chairmanship,” the tea party favorite said. “He completely has the backing of all the Republican governors. He’s been a rock star…not just raising money but going out there and really fighting to tell our story. And so we wouldn’t let him step down.”

Christie has denied any prior knowledge of the September lane closure plot, carried out by some of the governor’s allies and staffers, seemingly for political retribution. His administration is currently under state and federal investigation and Christie’s popularity, as a result, has plummeted. A recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll showed 41% of New Jersey voters disapprove of his job performance. And the majority -- 63% -- said Christie's own internal review, which cleared him of any wrongdoing, was not objective. Just 22% said they believe Christie's explanation of what happened.

Even as the GOP deals with a self-acknowledged branding problem, the Garden State governor at the press briefing also touted his party’s reputation, insisting “folks across the country support the records of those who are up for re-election and the brand that this party has created…We’re very happy with where we stand now.”

Christie said as a result of what he sees as the GOP’s stellar brand, his party has major opportunities this November to win gubernatorial seats, particularly in Illinois, Connecticut and Arkansas – where there are either incumbent or retiring Democratic governors.  The Democratic brand, the Garden State governor insisted, continues to “get worse.”

During a speech in Vermont last December, Christie insisted the GOP’s problems centered on its candidates and not the party.

“There are some people running around the country right now saying that our party has a problem with its brand, that we’re not relating to folks. It’s not our party’s problem; it’s our candidates’ problem.” 

Christie, who once led the nascent pack to be his party’s 2016 presidential nominee, will be in Florida on Thursday to help fundraise for vulnerable Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.

The non-partisan Cook Political Report rates four Republican held gubernatorial seats, including Scott’s, as definite tossups in 2014. The Democrats have two seats that have been rated as tossups.