New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, making his first visit to late-night television since a traffic scandal marred his image, touted his odds of winning the presidency in 2016. Hypothetically.
“Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon stipulated Thursday night that “hypothetically you run for president.”
“Hypothetically,” Christie said.
Fallon then asked whether Christie could beat Hillary Rodham Clinton if she were to run.
“Hypothetically? You bet,” Christie replied as the studio audience erupted in cheers.
The late-night appearance was a benchmark for Christie, who is in the midst of a nationwide rebranding tour after months dominated by ongoing investigations into his administration’s closure of traffic lanes near the George Washington Bridge last September. The closures, which caused a mammoth four-day traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J., followed the refusal by the city’s mayor to endorse Christie’s 2013 reelection campaign. The governor has said repeatedly that he knew nothing about the road-closure plan.
Polls in New Jersey show the controversy has faded somewhat but it nonetheless was a big focus for Fallon. (Christie had been a late-night regular until the scandal and its aftermath. Among the indignities suffered by the Republican governor since then was a January parody featuring Fallon and Bruce Springsteen, the New Jersey rock icon whom Christie reveres. The pair sang a doctored rendition of Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” titled, “Gov. Chris Christie’s Fort Lee New Jersey Traffic Jam.”)
Fallon noted Thursday that he was shocked at how rude some late-night comedians had been over the matter, prompting Christie to ask what Fallon had to say for himself.
“I’m very sorry,” Fallon said sheepishly, and Christie accepted his apology
Still, the matter came up repeatedly during the show, from Fallon’s opening monologue, when he said he may be in trouble with the governor, to when Christie was introduced by the house band playing a cover of “The Bridge is Over.”
During a musical dance-off skit, Christie and Fallon demonstrated “dad dance” moves to different tunes, fist-pumping and air-guitaring to “Born to Run.” And then a song titled “This Bridge is Closed” came on, and Christie -- clearly in on the joke -- waved his hands theatrically at Fallon and walked off stage.
Christie, who serves as head of the Republican Governors Assn., appeared to be taking the controversy in stride as he tries to reclaim some of the popularity that slipped in the months since news of the intentional closures surfaced in January. He has stepped up his public profile and his travels in recent weeks.
The charm offensive continues in California on Friday. In addition to campaigning with GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari on Friday morning in San Francisco, Christie is set to headline three Republican Governors Assn. fundraisers in the Bay Area and speak with voters in an hourlong online Facebook town hall.
In the evening, he’s to head for Utah, hosting another fundraiser for the governors association Friday night before he joins other 2016 hopefuls in addressing important GOP donors at 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s Park City retreat Saturday morning.
Follow politics? You’re in the right place: @LATSeema