Updated 9:09 p.m. ET, 2/26/2014
Long Hill, New Jersey (CNN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday that he will "not give into the hysteria" surrounding specific questions about a political scandal roiling his administration and will not let the uproar distract him from his "real job."
In his most extensive comments in weeks about the issue, Christie bristled at questions about his handling of the matter last year regarding staff members and other allies caught up in the controversy now under investigation by a state legislative committee and the U.S. Attorney.
"I will be damned if I let any of this stuff get in the way of my real job," he said on his latest appearance on the "Ask the Governor" program hosted by New Jersey 101.5.
The Republican's administration is facing scrutiny over suggestions top appointees orchestrated traffic gridlock in Fort Lee last September in an act of political retribution against that town's mayor.
Christie has denied any knowledge of the traffic mess at the foot of the George Washington Bridge until after it ended and only after it appeared in media reports.
He also denies knowing of any political mischief involving staffers or appointees at the agency that oversees bridge operations, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The scandal, which has resulted in subpoenas to top current and former officials, has called into question Christie's forceful governing style that has resonated with voters and has clouded prospects for any presidential bid.
Christie, who appeared frustrated with the line of questioning on the scandal, defended his handling of the matter as it simmered in New Jersey last fall, during his reelection campaign.
Asked about Kelly
He was asked whether he should have in the earlier going probed the issue more deeply with staff in Trenton and with top appointees at the Port Authority, who explained that a traffic study was behind the gridlock.
One person at the center of the scandal in particular is Bridget Kelly, a former deputy in Trenton, who was fired after the release of a potentially damaging series of emails with a top Christie appointee at the Port Authority.
"I'm not gonna give into the hysteria of questions that are given by folks who have information today that I didn't have at the time you're talking about," he said. "I didn't ask the questions because I didn't think they needed to be asked."
Christie said Kelly was questioned by her superiors and would not speculate about it, noting that he and others cannot compel people to say anything.
"If someone's not gonna tell you the truth they don't tell you the truth. What are you gonna do? Grab them by the ankles and shake them upside down till emails fall out of their pockets. I mean come on. Lets not be hysterical about that," he said.
Earlier, Christie cracked wise about polls on the same day a new survey showed troubling signs for his possible White House prospects.
He kicked off the Long Hill event with a joke that appeared to be in context of national poll numbers that have dropped since the scandal began making national headlines in January.
"The only two professions in America where you keep getting paid even when you are always wrong affect my life everyday – pollsters and weathermen," Christie said to laughter from the audience in snowy Morris County.
It's a political setting he favors and the area is friendly territory for the Republican, who began his political career two decades ago as a county freeholder.
"I mean, they don't ever have to have it right and then they come back the next day and they sound just as authoritative as they used to right? It's crazy," he continued. "But hopefully – we are getting to the end of February this week and hopefully that will mean we will stop this insane winter we've had."
A lot colder
The Garden State has seen its share of cold and snow this season, and Christie's national prospects have also cooled in polls.
A new CBS/New York Times poll Wednesday indicated 41% of Republicans said they didn't want Christie to run for President, compared to 31% who said they'd like to see the governor make a White House bid.
In a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released Monday, only 49% of the state's registered voters approve of the job he's doing now, down from 58% in January and from 70% a year ago.
And a CNN/ORC International survey earlier this month indicated that Christie trailed Hillary Clinton by 16 percentage points in a hypothetical 2016 matchup. It represented a dramatic switch from December, when Christie held a 48%-46% edge. Clinton has not said whether she's running either.
Attendees waiting in line before the town hall had predicted the event would mostly focus on the governor's budget plan, with some bringing up concerns about education and pension plans.
One woman said she hoped to see "the old Christie back," adding that he's been looking "sad" these days.
Others brushed off the recent bridge controversy, saying it doesn't seem to be an issue that locals are too concerned about.
The governor, who was re-elected by a landslide last year to a second term, said he's "not worried about politics anymore" in New Jersey.
"I'm on the back nine, you're only obligation is to tell people the truth," he said. "My name's not going to be on the ballot again in this state, so we need to make sure we do this the right way."
For the second week, Christie didn't get any questions at town halls about the scandal du jour. But this time, one participant did ask him about red lights and traffic jams at lights near the Holland Tunnel, which crosses under the Hudson River toward Lower Manhattan.
"I am not, as I stand here today, an expert on light timing," Christie responded, saying he'll have his transportation aides get in touch with the man.
The Holland Tunnel is operated by the same agency that runs the George Washington Bridge and is caught up in the scandal - the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
"I was like at the end of my ability to say anything intelligent about traffic lights so I didn't want it to go down to the deck here," he joked.
'Be a leader'
One of his toughest questions came from a 10-year-old girl named Abigail, a fifth-grader who raised a lengthy concern about the state's decision to switch to a system that requires students to take the tests on computers, rather than pen and paper.
Reading from a piece of paper, she said she found in her own science fair experiment that students retain more information when they engage with paper and pen, rather than computer screens or iPads.
The she offered a challenge to the governor.
"Don't be a follower, be a leader," she said.
Christie took heat from a few in the audience who loudly questioned him on his veto of an anti-fracking waste ban, but Christie waved them off and largely ignored them. The audience then drowned them out with boo's.
Christie, known for his combative style and personal political touch, likes being face-to-face with voters and he's sticking to that practice as his administration reels from the political scandal.
A Christie staff member told CNN that he'll be doing more of the events in coming weeks and months to stress the "things he hopes to accomplish" as well as address recovery efforts from 2012's Superstorm Sandy that devastated parts of the state, especially shore areas.
He'll hold another town hall as early as Tuesday. It will be his 112th event since taking office in 2009.