While the bloom is off the rose as our governor battles through the biggest political challenges of his career – one GOP party elder still thinks he has a shot to win the Presidency in 2016.

John McCain, in a recent interview in Time Magazine, says despite the Governor’s recent problems, his chances of winning his party’s nomination are strong.

"I think he's still a very viable candidate," McCain said. "I do believe that obviously he has to get this issue behind him. I think he's handled it quite well.

There's always the question in these situations on whether there's new information and that's the caution that I have.

But I think the smartest thing he could've done is have a press conference that lasted until he answered every possible question. I thought that was really a wise tactic on his part."

Note he did allude to “new information” – so in the wake of newspaper reports that had surfaced over the weekend regarding the recently implemented toll hikes at Port Authority crossings and the hand his appointees had in concocting the plan, you still wonder as to how attractive a candidate the Governor would be.

The Port Authority in 2011 proposed a massive toll hike so that Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo could later scale it back and gain support for a softened increase, allowing the two governors to claim false credit as fiscal hawks, said separate stories in The Record and Star-Ledger.

The approved plan is increasing Hudson River tolls in stages to $12.50 for E-ZPass subscribers and $15 for cash customers by December 2015. The maximum initially proposed tolls were $14 and $17.

The extra revenue in part will fund a $942 million “regional bank’’ that the governors can use for pet projects not directly related to the Port Authority, The Record said.

The scheme was led by Christie’s top Port Authority executive appointee, Bill Baroni, and his right-hand man, David Wildstein. Both quit their jobs after state lawmakers began looking into last September’s bridge lane closures.

The Record said Christie on Aug. 3, 2011, held a meeting in his office with a group of advisers including Baroni, Wildstein and Port Authority Chairman David Samson and instructed officials to float an immediate $4 hike, and that he and Cuomo would reduce it to $2.

Reaction to the stories was muted.

To political observers, it’s not news that gamesmanship was involved in the toll hike increase, said pollster Patrick Murray.

“It was no surprise to those of us who were following this that the (initial) toll hike was higher than what they planned to do as a way to give governors in both states political cover,” Murray said.

Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said it’s unclear how this will affect Christie in light of the scandals already casting a shadow over his administration. The public already knew Christie was not above playing politics, Murray said.

That faded with his surging popularity after superstorm Sandy hit. If anything, this further erodes what’s left of the popularity brought by the storm, he said.

Some will think that all the revelations coming out now are being done to smear the Governor’s reputation.

Let’s remember, however, that he came into office to change the way business was being done in Trenton.

You get the feeling that the only thing that’s changed are the names – the games remained the same.

Yet despite all that, the Governor, who still trails Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical presidential matchup, does so here in New Jersey by only 10 points.

New Jersey voters pick Hillary Clinton over Gov. Chris Christie in a hypothetical 2016 presidential matchup by 10 points, according to a new poll.
The Rutgers-Eagleton poll found Clinton, a Democrat, got 51 percent support in New Jersey to Republican Christie’s 41 percent.

Identical polls conducted in Virginia by Roanoke College and New York by Siena College both showed Clinton leading Christie in those states as well. In New York, it was not close. Clinton got 64 percent to Republican Christie’s 28 percent. It was more of a contest in Virginia, where Clinton led Christie 48 percent to 40 percent.

The Rutgers-Eagletion poll — which was conducted Feb. 22-28 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent — found that 48 percent of New Jersey voters held a favorable view of Christie and 40 percent an unfavorable one.

When asked to pick one candidate they would most like to become the next president, 35 percent of New Jersey voters chose Clinton, as did 39 percent in New York and 29 percent in Virginia. Of 25 potential candidates named, Christie came in 2nd – but well behind Clinton.

He was the top choice of 16 percent of New Jersey voters, 8 percent of New York voters and 7 percent of Virginia voters. Still, in all there states Christie was far ahead of potential rivals for the Republican nomination like U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

If after ingested all of the above, do you not come away with the feeling that there should be a 3rd alternative? Do you see things as Senator John McCain does - that Chris Christie still has a shot at the GOP nomination for President in 2016?