Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, struggling to get ahead of the bridge scandal, hits Chicago on Tuesday for Republican Governors Association fundraisers, but the four Republicans running for Illinois governor did not have plans to attend. [...] Wes Bleed, a spokesman for state Sen. Kirk Dillard R-Hinsdale said, "no, we won't be attending any Christie events." Brian Sterling, a spokesman for Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, said "he knows nothing about the event and is not involved in any way." Dan Egler, a spokesman for state Sen. Bill Brady R-Bloomington, said "right now, no." Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for investor Bruce Rauner -- and a former RGA spokesman -- told me, "We don't have his schedule completely finalized for next week yet."
The recent pattern is tough to miss. When Christie visited Florida a few weeks ago in support of Gov. Rick Scott's (R) re-election campaign, Scott did not schedule any public events in which he would be seen with Christie. Last week, the New Jersey governor traveled to Texas in support of Greg Abbott's (R) gubernatorial campaign, but neither Abbott nor Gov. Rick Perry (R) wanted to be seen with Christie.
And now the governor is headed to Illinois, where everyone in the four-person GOP gubernatorial field will keep Christie at arm's length.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but the core goal of the chairman of the Republican Governors Association is, at its most basic level, to help Republican gubernatorial candidates. When these candidates don't want to be seen with the head of the RGA, there's a serious problem.
A couple of weeks ago, Virginia's Ken Cuccinelli (R), who benefited directly from Christie fundraising efforts in 2013, said what few in his party have been willing to admit. "I think just from the perspective of setting aside this as an issue in other races, it makes sense for him to step aside in that role," Cuccinelli said of Christie and the RGA. "He does not serve the goals of that organization by staying as chairman."
At the time, none of Christie's allies took the idea seriously, but that's slowly starting to change.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said Monday that New Jersey Chris Christie has become a "distraction" to the Republican Governors Association. "The fact is right now, he's a distraction to the RGA," Scarborough said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "If Republicans' job is electing governors and you got a guy running the RGA that has Republican candidates running away from him, that's a serious problem."
The more Christie travels to areas where candidates are reluctant to be in the same room with him, the more this talk will grow louder.
It's true, as many Republicans have noted, that there are congressional Democrats who aren't eager to be seen with President Obama, either. But as we talked about the other day, there are real limits to the comparison.
For one thing, President Obama hasn't had any legitimate scandals, while Christie is mired in several. For another, Obama isn't directly involved in overseeing Democratic campaign efforts, while Christie is the chairman of the RGA.
And finally, Obama has already won two national presidential elections and will leave public office for good in 2016. Christie likes to think his burgeoning career as a national leader is just getting started. For conservative Dems to shy away from their sixth-year Democratic president isn't nearly as embarrassing as Republicans keeping their distance from a prominent GOP governor who expects to launch his first national campaign fairly soon.