By KEN THOMAS and MICHAEL J. MISHAK
2014-01-17 10:42 PM
MIAMI (AP) -- Republican star Chris Christie goes face-to-face this weekend with one of the biggest challenges since scandal hit his New Jersey office last week: Assuring top party donors that he remains a strong candidate for president in 2016.
The New Jersey governor has been on the defensive after documents showed a top aide orchestrated a massive traffic jam at the foot of one of the world's busiest bridges in an apparent act of political revenge.
The blunt-speaking Christie has apologized and said he knew nothing about it, but his image as a pragmatic politician willing to work with Democrats has suffered.
Christie, who leads the Republican Governors Association, will be in Florida this weekend for a series of fundraisers to help that state's Republican governor.
It gives Christie a chance to convince longtime financial supporters and wealthy newcomers that the scandal has not hurt his national stature and presidential potential.
Republican donors are beginning to assess a potentially large Republican field for the 2016 race. Two prominent Florida Republicans -- former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio -- are viewed as potential candidates.
Many Republicans have come to Christie's defense and credited him with taking responsibility, although some party leaders say his future will depend on whether his account of what happened is accurate.
On Sunday, Christie will attend two fundraisers in Palm Beach and meet with top financial supporters at a gathering organized by Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, who urged the governor to consider a late entry into the 2012 presidential race. The event, which was first reported by The Washington Post, will allow some of Christie's longtime supporters to get together after the governor's sweeping re-election in November.
The 2016 presidential campaign will begin in earnest following November's midterm congressional elections. Insiders suggest that any prospective candidate will need to raise $50 million to $100 million by the end of the 2016 primaries.
Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in Boston contributed to this report.