Updated 1:56 p.m. ET, 2/9/2014
(CNN) – The Newark-based Star-Ledger, the largest newspaper in New Jersey, was already reluctant when it endorsed Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election bid. But now its editorial page editor is having a strong case of buyer’s remorse.
“We blew this one,” Tom Moran of the paper’s editorial board wrote in a column Sunday.
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The column comes exactly one month after Christie denied in a nearly two-hour press conference that he had any involvement in or knowledge of an alleged plot to cause traffic problems in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
A state legislative committee and the Justice Department are investigating whether top Christie appointees orchestrated days of traffic gridlock around the George Washington Bridge last year to punish the city’s Democratic mayor for political reasons.
Christie fired two of the top aides accused of playing a role in the incident, while another one resigned before the scandal blew up in national headlines.
In the editorial, Moran cited the tumultuous ride that Christie’s administration has taken in the past month.
“We knew Christie was a bully. But we didn’t know his crew was crazy enough to put people’s lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor,” he wrote. He also pointed to separate allegations that Christie’s administration used Superstorm Sandy funds to pressure a local mayor to back a private development deal.
Christie denies that as well.
In defense of the Star-Ledger, Moran wrote that the editorial board’s endorsement last fall was a choice between two flawed candidates - a view the paper acknowledged at the time of the nod.
“Even before this scandal train got rolling, this endorsement was a close call and a split vote among the editorial board. We regard Christie as the most overrated politician in the country, at least until now, a man who is better at talking than governing,” Moran wrote.
The paper backed him, however, because of his work to improve education programs, as well as pension and health reforms. On top of that, Christie’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono, was “not up to the job of being governor,” Moran wrote.
Moran wrote Sunday that the editorial board didn’t consider Christie more likable than Buono, either.
“Christie has boycotted the editorial board for years, an attempt to bully us into more loving coverage. So we’ve had a front-row view of what a creep he can be,” he wrote. “Buono is the more likable person by far.”
But “we swallowed our hesitations and endorsed Christie, complete with our long list of deep reservations,” he wrote.
Christie's office declined a request for comment about the new column.
The controversy has tarnished Christie’s potential run as a potential front-runner for the 2016 GOP presidential primary.
Even so, Moran argued, the other possible GOP front-runners are weaker, and he’d still back Christie.
“Now ask yourself this: If the Republican primary came to a choice between (Sen. Rand) Paul and Christie, which candidate would you endorse? At the risk of repeating a mistake, I’d pick Christie in that primary, even now. And if you think that makes some sense, then you understand how excruciating the endorsement process can be,” he wrote.