By Drew MacKenzie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been dealt a devastating blow by two running polls in his hopes of rebuilding his image as a potential presidential candidate.
Although the Republican governor has been cleared by his own investigation team of any wrongdoing in the bridge-gate scandal, an online survey by the editorial board of the state's largest newspaper, The Star-Ledger, shows that readers — by an overwhelming majority — do not believe he’s off the hook.
Randy Mastro, who headed the independent, blamed David Wildstein, Christie's former political ally at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, for deliberately shutting down the George Washington Bridge and causing a five-day traffic nightmare.
Mastro, a lawyer, also cleared Christie of having any prior knowledge or involvement in the closings of access lanes to the bridge last September from Fort Lee, N.J.
In the first poll, the newspaper asked readers, "Does Randy Mastro’s Bridge-gate report convince you that Gov. Chris Christie had nothing to do with the GWB closures?"
At 11 a.m. Friday, there were more than 6,140 replies. More than 5,180 readers, 84 percent, had voted "No," while only 816 or 13 percent had voted "Yes." Little more than 2 percent were "still unsure."
After his successful leadership during Superstorm Sandy, Christie had emerged as a front-runner in the potential race to become the Republican presidential nominee for 2016.
But his approval ratings went into a tailspin after the Bridge-gate scandal erupted and he’s fallen behind other possible GOP contenders, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
Christie told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer on Thursday night that he will make a decision about running for president next year, while noting that people in New Jersey love his brash style. “I think they love me in Iowa, too, Diane," he added.
But the results of a second running online poll in the paper tell a different story about his chances of becoming the GOP nominee.
The newspaper posed the question to readers: "Will the new bridge scandal report help remove doubt about Chris Christie in 2016?"
More than 840 people replied to the poll by 11 a.m. with an overwhelming 730 respondents, 87 percent, voting "No" while 100 readers, 12 percent, voted "Yes."
The poll does not have a margin of error or indicate whether the readers are registered voters, or whether they are from New Jersey of other states.
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