Often the most telling questions are the ones that don’t get asked. At a 13-minute press conference in Tennessee July 12, no reporter queried New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about the George Washington Bridge scandal that once threatened to torpedo his presidential hopes.
It’s a positive sign for the garrulous governor as he gets back on the road this summer–including a swing through the early-caucus state of Iowa–in an effort to repair his damaged reputation and raise money in his role as head of the Republican Governors Association. But it doesn’t mean he’s over that bridge yet. As Christie revs up for 2016, he remains a popular target for other, more conservative Republicans.
In a jab at Christie’s selective approach to picking issues, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said the GOP must offer substance over style. “The next big elections can’t be ones about personalities or just about slogans,” he told TIME in response to a question about Christie. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used Christie as a foil for questions about an investigation into his own campaign practices. “Obviously, he’s not out of the woods yet,” Walker said, suggesting that Christie’s troubles, unlike his, were “just beginning.” And Texas Governor Rick Perry, another potential 2016 contender, outshone Christie at a pro-Israel event attended by the influential GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson.
Christie’s backers say the bridge is a bump in the road–maybe not the best metaphor. But while he retains the unusual candor that made him an early front runner, the overtures from Wall Street financiers have become less frequent. “He’s still surrounded by the same guys,” says a top GOP fundraiser who was once committed to Christie. “Where’s the growth? I’m not seeing it yet.”
This appears in the August 04, 2014 issue of TIME.