Gov. Chris Christie maintains he had no previous knowledge of the controversial Fort Lee lane closures, despite the release of documents that would suggest otherwise, but "Bridgegate" is still likely a step backward for the man who may try to become the next President of the United States.

Gov. Chris Christie
Governor Chris Christie (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Leaked emails indicate a top aide to Christie had a direct role in closing lanes that connect Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge. The move created a traffic nightmare for the region, and Democrats suggested it was politically-motivated because the mayor of Fort Lee wouldn't support Christie's bid for re-election.

"Even if it wasn't Christie who ordered this or even knew about this, has he created a culture in his administration where people are expected to do that on his behalf," asked Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

In a public statement released several hours after the leak, Christie called the move "unacceptable" and "completely inappropriate," promising that people will be held responsible for their actions.

Vehicles slow for tolls before crossing the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee (John Moore/Getty Images)
Vehicles slow for tolls before crossing the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee (John Moore/Getty Images)

"Either way, this undermines his credibility about the image that he's tried to put forward," Murray added. "This has opened a floodgate, and we're not sure how big the flood's going to be."

If other officials were to come forward and describe similar treatment from the Christie administration, Murray said, Christie may be in danger of losing his spot as the top pick for presidential candidate among the "Republican establishment."

Fairleigh Dickinson University political science professor Peter Woolley wasn't as quick to cast a shadow on the potential presidential run, noting "people have short memories" and many successful candidates have brought their share of baggage on the campaign trail and into the White House.

"I don't think there's any question that there's been some damage involved here," Woolley noted. "It's just a question, at this point, of how much."