It goes without saying that there are no disinterested parties in this drama. State Democrats are eager to put a big dent in the popularity that won Christie a landslide reelection victory only a couple months ago. And they in turn are backed by national Democrats who want to make this an albatross around Christie's neck right through 2016. They think the story has legs; and I think they're right.
But as I wrote a week ago, Christie has managed to be his own worst enemy in how he's handled the story to date - alternatively belittling its significance, making easily refutable claims that don't even go to the heart of whatever culpability, if any, he has in the incident and generally playing to a bullying personality that tends to make the unproven charges more credible rather than less.
There's no proof Christie knew about this or had a direct hand in it. Even if he did, I'd be shocked if he left any sort of paper trail that could prove it. But it seems very likely that someone did this as political payback on Christie's behalf. There's simply no other credible explanation. And those are his people. Unless he gets out ahead of it quickly by disciplining or firing people on his own - which he hasn't done and shows no signs of doing - that's plenty to besmirch his emerging national reputation in a big way. At its worst, it's definitely not fatal. But can become the sort of identifying scandal which colors his reputation permanently.
I think TPM Reader JL put it best a week ago when he said this ...
People who like Christie (and I count myself among them most days of the week) don't like him in spite of the fact that he's a bully. They like him because he's our bully. Whether it's unions, bureaucrats or the intolerance of the GOP he seems to be fighting for you and me.
I agree that ft lee is far from from fatal especially because there are almost certainly no fingerprints. But the risk isn't that he's perceived to be more of a bully than we thought. It's not that he appears petty and vindictive. We pretty much knew that. The problem is that he didn't give a shit about stealing hours from thousands of commuters lives. The risk is that ft lee shows that he doesn't actually give a shit about you and me at all.