Chris Christie: The $33 Million Man

By: Paul Steinhauser (CNN)--
By: Paul Steinhauser (CNN)--

(CNN) -- It appears the George Washington Bridge controversy that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's been dealing with back home in the Garden State hasn't affected his standing nationally as one of the Republican Party's most potent fundraising rainmakers.

The Republican Governors Association announced Thursday that the group has raised a record $23.5 million the first three months of this year, and $33 million since Christie took over as RGA chairman in late November. That's a new fundraising record for the first four and a half months of a new RGA chairman's tenure.

The $23.5 million raised in this year's first quarter shatters the previous RGA record of $9.1 million brought in during the first three months of 2010 under the chairmanship of then-Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

"While Washington is broken, Republican governors are getting results, making government work and putting policies in place to put their states on the right track," said Christie in a statement. "Republican governors have done more than just talk about reforming government, they have made the tough decisions and gotten results. Thanks to the hard work and success of every Republican governor, we have the resources we need to win these critical elections."

Christie's chairmanship of the RGA was seen as a possible stepping stone to a potential 2016 bid for the GOP presidential nomination. But six weeks into his tenure as RGA chairman, the bridge controversy went viral. State lawmakers and the U.S.

Attorney's Office are looking into allegations that top Christie appointees orchestrated traffic jams last September by closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee to politically punish that town's mayor for not endorsing the governor's re-election.

Christie has denied knowing anything about the gridlock until after it occurred, and has said he knew nothing about any political mischief by members of his administration.

Last week a review commissioned by Christie's administration cleared the New Jersey governor of any wrongdoing in the bridge controversy, which has put a cloud over his political future.

But the scandal and the intense scrutiny by the national media that Christie's come under may be helping him with some in his party, especially from the conservative base, that have long been suspicious about politically pragmatic governor from a blue state.

"Christie remains popular among Republicans, many of whom see the attacks on him as partisan efforts to destroy a popular GOPer. That's why he remains a formidable fundraiser for the RGA and an asset to his party," Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, told CNN.

Republicans are defending 22 of the 36 gubernatorial seats up for grabs this November. The party could face challenging re-election bids in Pennsylvania, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, states all won by President Barack Obama in 2012.

The RGA will also report Thursday that it has just shy of $60 million cash on hand, nearly double what it had in the bank at this point in the 2010 midterm cycle.

RGA Executive Director Phil Cox said that the "RGA's strong financial position will give us the resources to push back against the public sector unions and the White House, who have targeted Republican governors and candidates for defeat."

Posted by Greg Palmer

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