TODAY   |  January 18, 2014

Amid scandal, Chris Christie attends fundraiser in Fla.

As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie works to raise money for his party, Democrats remain critical of the recent scandal involving lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports, with an interview with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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>>> new jersey governor chris christie is in florida this morning on a fund-raising mission for the republican party . it is his first trip out of his home state since the bridge scandal broke earlier this month. the question now, will the investigation into that scandal hurt his chances of a potential run for president as he meets with the donors who could help fund a white house campaign? kelly o'donnell is in ft. lauderdale this morning. kelly , good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, erica . a brief getaway for new jersey governor chris christie from the chilly, winter weather in new jersey as well as the political environment there. he will have five events across two days here in florida . these are private fund-raisers, so we won't get to see the donors he's mixing and mingling with, but you're right, they're the very people who could be very important if chris christie decides to run for president in 2016 . he has this new job, and that's part of why he's on this mission this weekend, as chairman of the republican governors association , where he will be trying to raise attention and campaign cash for governors across the country. so, he's here to help republican governor rick scott . but back home, there has been that widening investigation, and the impact of that comes with him. there are 20 subpoenas that go after the governor's office, some of his current as well as former staffers, his campaign and the port authority , where a new select committee in the new jersey assembly is trying to find out who ordered and why those bridge lane closures that caused so much trouble and erupted into this scandal. and while chris christie is trying to get back to the normal day-to-day business of his job and political trips like this, that scandal has grown and will follow him for some time to come. now, while we're here in florida , erica , i can tell you that democrats are paying attention to this, too. the chairman of the democratic national committee , debbie wasserman schultz , she represents florida in congress, she'll be doing some of her own public events to try to counter christie 's message. erica ?

>> kelly o'donnell in ft. lauderdale for us this morning. kelly , thanks. and as we just heard from kelly , congresswoman debbie wasserman schultz is in florida . she is chair of the democratic national committee and author of "for the next generation." she joins us this morning. good morning. nice to have you with us.

>> good morning, erica . thanks. great to be with you.

>> as we heard from kelly , you'll be making your way around the state to try to counter that message from governor christie . what specifically is it, though, you're trying to counter? is it what he's saying and what may be related to new jersey , or is it any potential presidential moves that could be coming up?

>> well, i think, actually, former national republican committee chairman michael steele said it best in florida yesterday when he said on the day that chris christie gets 20 subpoenas dropped on him, including a subpoena of his own gubernatorial office, instead of staying in new jersey , hunkering down, focusing on the priorities of his constituents, whose ability to traverse the george washington bridge was blocked, he's in florida , campaigning with another scandal-plagued governor and doing no public events, answering no questions. and you know, the real question is, is are they only doing private events because rick scott doesn't want to be seen with chris christie or because chris christie doesn't want to answer any questions? it's probably a little bit of both.

>> we should note in this new nbc news/marist poll, nearly 70% of americans say this entire scandal has not changed their opinion of governor christie . do those numbers count for anything when you're looking at this, that americans really aren't that fazed by it at this point?

>> you know, i think we're just scratching the surface of the investigation. the new jersey assembly is rightly taking a hard look at just how deeply this goes. chris christie spent two hours after ignoring questions for more than 120 days and not wondering at all why four lanes of traffic were closed on the busiest bridge in the world and mired his constituents in traffic, blocked ambulances from being able to get their emergencies to their destination. it's stunning, and i think we're just scratching the surface here, and we'll see whether -- how close this actually got to chris christie being directly responsible for this.

>> i want to move on now. i know you have a book out. one of the things in the book that you write is that passing obamacare was the political sacrifice of losing the house in 2010 . there's an important election, obviously, coming up in 2014 . democrats trying to hold on to their majority in the senate. the rollout of obamacare has been bumpy, to put it mildly. are you concerned at all that this may mean you could lose that majority in 2014 ?

>> well, erica , i'm a mom of three young kids, which i think you know, and i wrote "for the next generation" because i really thought it was important to lay out for americans , particularly those who are just living their lives every day, parents like me who are balancing work and family, the really critical issues that are facing us, and health care is certainly one of those. as a breast cancer survivor, i can tell you that i was absolutely thrilled that january 1st , other breast cancer survivors like me no longer have to worry about an insurance company dropping us or denying us coverage for pre-existing conditions. yes, the rollout of the health care website was bumpy, but we've had 6 million americans able to set up for health insurance , quality, affordable health insurance . and you know, as somebody who's been through a health care crisis, i know that if you don't have your health, you don't have anything, and giving that peace of mind to americans is critical. and the republicans have forced us to vote nearly 50 times now to try to take that peace of mind away, and i think our candidates are going to be able to run on the affordable care act as an asset, because when push comes to shove , they want to make sure at the end of the day that they can focus on staying healthy so that they can continue to focus on achieving the american dream .

>> debbie wasserman schultz , good to have you with us this morning.

>> thanks, erica .