Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Friday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie handled the scandal over lane closures on the George Washington bridge “in a very effective way” and that the controversy would not hurt his presidential ambitions.
“A member of his administration did something that he was unaware of and that he found reprehensible,” Romney told the Washington Post. “He faced the American people for two hours, took their questions. He dismissed people who were responsible. He took personal responsibility. That’s what a leader does.”
“I think he’s handled this kind of setting in a way very different than people who are not leaders, and I think the American people are pining for leaders who will take responsibility, who will answer questions openly, who will make sure that there’s accountability for the individuals who’ve done something wrong and speak in a blunt, straightforward manner,” Romney said. “I think Chris is not hurt by the controversy. I think as time goes on, he’ll be seen as a strong leader.”
Christie has come under fire after emails revealed that top aides were responsible for closing lanes on the crucial artery between New York City and New Jersey. It is believed that the aides took action in retribution after the Fort Lee, N.J. mayor refused to endorse Christie’s reelection bid.
Romney said Christie remained a “very strong potential nominee,” but also listed his former running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) among his top candidates.
“There are a number of Republican leaders who I think could be very strong, but Chris is certainly one of them,” Romney said.
Romney’s embrace of Christie comes despite complaints by some Republicans that the New Jersey governor hurt his chances against President Obama. Christie famously met with Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and the moment of bipartisanship was thought to boost the president’s electoral standing.