Chris Christie update: Guv buddies up with Wal-Mart and readies for his first post-Bridgegate town hall

Also: GOP donors still love Christie and Massachusetts Republicans pretend the governor isn't political poison

By Elias Isquith

Published February 20, 2014 2:10PM (EST)

Thursday's a big day for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as he faces his state's residents in person, in a public forum, for the first time since news of Bridgegate broke. And if a recent story about Wal-Mart's operations in the state is anything to go by, it's fair to guess that anyone in the town hall audience with ties to the law firm of Wolff & Samson can expect their questions to be answered first.

Here's what to know about Christie today:

  • After being twice delayed because of the nasty weather, Christie will hold his first post-Bridgegate town hall meeting on Thursday in Middletown, N.J. Anonymously, Christie advisers have indicated to the press that the governor won't be busting out his signature domineering style during Thursday's back-and-forth with constituents, hoping instead to keep a measured countenance and stick to talking about how he's managed (and is still managing) New Jersey's recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
  • A Tuesday report from the Daily Beast highlights a sketchy-sounding and ongoing negotiation occurring between Wal-Mart and members of the Christie administration. The retail behemoth wants to add another store to Toms River, N.J., despite the fact that the town's already got one Wal-Mart and that the corporation's preferred location is in the Pine Barrens — a legally protected chunk of forest in south N.J. — while also bordering some protected waterways and being the home of a species of endangered snake. The state's Department of Environmental Protection rejected Wal-Mart's plan twice, once under Christie's predecessor and again under Christie, but Wal-Mart has secured the representation of the law firm Wolff & Samson, which has deep and increasingly problematic ties to the Christie administration, and — voilà! — it now looks like constructing the Wal-Mart has moved from unlikely to quite possible. Funny, that.
  • An MSNBC report indicates that the Republican Party's donor base still loves Christie. As Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, put it, Christie's burgeoning reputation for being a (possibly corrupt) bully is hardly a drawback for these GOP funders: “If you’re a bully ... that’s great. That’s only going to motivate these people to give,” he said.
  • Massachusetts GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker is getting mixed advice as to whether he should publicly associate himself with Christie when the governor comes to what is arguably the most liberal state in the U.S. this spring. Folks who are paid employees of the GOP in some capacity insist that Christie is a rock star and his scandals will totally blow over. Political scientists, on the other hand, say Baker's associating himself with such a controversial and possibly toxic Republican, while running for office in such a liberal state, would be an obviously stupid and self-destructive move.
  • Last (and least), a designer in Orlando, Fla., is selling a Christie figurine created by a 3-D printer. It shows Christie holding a stop sign that reads "Traffic Study" while wearing a traffic cone as a hat. For just $37.87, you too can own this piece of 2014 history, which is almost guaranteed to be prominently featured in VH1's "I Love the 2010s!" sometime during the 2030s.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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