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Obama’s State of the Union address nods to Bridgegate scandal with Ft. Lee mayor invitation

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night in Washington, D.C. features the Bridgegate scandal, even though it is not mentioned at all.  It’s due to a move by the Democratic Party that it hopes will resonate nationally against Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

“Really, this is a national advertisement against Chris Christie,” said Fairleigh Dickinson University political science professor Peter Woolley.  The academic, who also co-wrote the book American Politics: Core Argument/Current Controversy, told PIX11 News that the president’s address puts Bridgegate in the room without it being stated, a tactic that Democrats hope will keep the scandal on the minds of voters.

“The TV will identify any interesting or noteworthy people in the audience,” said Prof. Woolley.  “So it will be hard for any commentator to avoid pointing to the mayor of Fort Lee and talking about Chris Christie and the lane closures and the scandal.”

Woolley was referring to the mayor at the heart of the Bridgegate scandal, Mark Sokolich of Ft. Lee.  In documents produced through the investigation into  Bridgegate, Sokolich was called “this little Serbian” by some of Christie’s closest advisers, after he did not endorse Christie’s bid for governor.

Those same aides were apparently involved in intentional lane closures to the George Washington Bridge that resulted in severe traffic delays throughout Ft. Lee on September 9th through 12th of last year, reportedly in retaliation for Sokolich not endorsing Christie.

Christie ended up, on January 9th, going in person to Ft. Lee’s town hall and apologizing in person to Mayor Sokolich, after Christie claimed then that he’d learned for the first time that his aides had apparently engineered the three-day bridge shutdown.

Now, the target of that evidently malicious act is in Washington with the president, in front of the political pundits, who comment about the scene in the House chamber for hours before the president takes the podium. Sokolich is officially in attendance as the guest of congressman Bill Pascrell, a fellow Democrat who represents the Northern New Jersey district that includes Ft. Lee.

“Another message [the Democrats are] sending is Chris Christie, the potential Republican nominee, is not a good guy,” Prof. Woolley said.

That message may have begun resonating before the speech started.  Prof. Woolley is also the co-founder of Fairleigh Dickinson’s PublicMind polling center.  Its survey released Tuesday showed that Christie’s numbers are lower than they’ve been in nearly three years.

“His surge following the storm, which [Christie] rode to very high approval ratings, have vanished,” said Woolley.  “Now he’s back to where mere mortals live as governors, below 50 percent.”

Specifically, when asked if they approve of the job Christie’s doing, 48 percent of registered New Jersey voters said yes, compared with 62 percent the last time they were asked, in October of last year.  Meanwhile, the number of people who disapprove of Christie’s job performance jumped to 39 percent, up from 24 percent in October.

Returning to the State of the Union, the Republicans have a noteworthy guest of their own.  Willie Robertson, star of the reality show Duck Dynasty, whose father, Phil, made homophobic comments late last year, is the guest of Louisiana Republican congressman Vance McAllister.  Phil Robertson’s comments garnered widespread scorn, as well as some praise from some conservatives.