Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's the narrative

The one way that I think this bridge scandal might actually hurt Chris Christie's presidential aspirations is that it gives the media the opportunity to change the Christie narrative. Before this scandal came out, Christie was always portrayed as a popular straight-talking if blunt guy, who was more practical than partisan. This scandal paints him, or at least the people around him as petty partisans, the opposite of that image he was cultivating before.

When the narrative changes, different stories see the light of day. The gatekeepers of the media generally pay attention to stuff that reinforces their preexisting images of the relevant political players. A change in their view of Christie means that different stories that were downplayed or unreported before because they did not fit the previous narrative, might get more attention now.

I'm not sure if the Christie narrative really will change, but this story suggests that it might have. I mean, look at the details:
But Zimmer said she was baffled that when the study came out in January 2013, it only recommended developing 3 of the 19 blocks that were owned by the Rockefeller Group. Under the plan, just those three blocks would have been eligible for tax breaks and other development incentives.
January 2013 was a year ago. It looks like the Hoboken Mayor wasn't able to get the media to pay attention to her allegations until now. While holding hurricane relief aid hostage to aid politically connected developers was not part of Christie's image pre-bridge scandal, it is consistent with the new image of his administration.

The Hoboken story might or might not be true. But now it has room in the media for people to talk about it. And that is what is dangerous to Christie's long-term political prospects. The American public's attention span is short. By the time the next presidential race gets going, this Bridgegate thing will seem like ancient history. But if Bridgegate gets the media shining a different light on Christie as he starts his run for president, that can affect things quite a lot, even if no one it talking about Fort Lee anymore.