Embattled Governor CHRIS CHRISTIE will recover from the “Bridgegate” scandal, say political ex­perts, and play a major role in the 2016 race for the White House.

Despite all the controversy, a new national FOX News poll places the tough-as-nails New Jersey gover­nor as the Republican frontrunner ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

“Sure he’s been written off by pundits and political opponents, but Christie is a smart guy and people like him,” one respected commentator told The ENQUIRER. “American politics is full of come­back stories and his could be one of the truly great ones.”

The “Bridgegate” controversy exploded in early January when emails and texts emerged to bolster Democrats’ charges that Chris­tie aides engineered major traffic problems near the George Wash­ington Bridge as part of a political vendetta. Lanes were closed for four days creating chaos for drivers, allegedly in an act of retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., who didn’t endorse the governor’s re-election bid last year.

Christie acted swiftly, saying he was misled by his staffers and fired two senior members of his team. But his political opponents went on the attack creating a massive backlash against the man many considered the GOP’s strongest contender for president.

“This is a real test of Christie’s credentials,” former presidential aide and best-selling author Rog­er Stone told The ENQUIRER. “Bridgegate” has created a cred­ibility gap for him. He’s got to work twice as hard to win back voters’ hearts and minds – to convince them that he’s still the champion of ordinary folks.”

But Christie, 51, who lost 100 pounds after undergoing lap band  surgery in February 2013, can do it, say the experts, just like other political heavyweights before him.

 Bill Clinton overcame charges of draft-dodging and adultery with Genni­fer Flowers in the run up to his successful 1992 Democratic presidential campaign.

 Republican George W. Bush faced allegations of out-of-control boozing and past drug use, but still won the 2000 election.

 And Barack Obama deflected criti­cism over the inflammatory, “anti-white and anti-American” views of his divisive pastor Jeremiah Wright to win in 2008. Then before being re-elected in 2012, Obama was caught up in a firestorm over where he was REALLY born and the validity of his Hawaiian birth certifi­cate.

Now as Christie begins his fight back, he finds himself the victim of a dirty tricks campaign, organized by a left-wing journalist who has been described by opponents as “a crazy per­son.”

Political blogger David Sirota accused Gov. Christie last week of a “violation of state anticorruption” law by award­ing pension management contracts to in-state investment managers who had previously donated to the Republican National Committee.

The ENQUIRER has since learned that the contract was pending and that no funds had been transferred by the New Jersey State Investment Council – and a spokesperson for New Jersey’s Treasury Department said that the do­nation from the hedge fund’s principal and his wife to the Republican National Committee was not in violation of Trea­sury rules.

As for Sirota, he’s best known for an­gering grieving families a year ago with the outrageous statement: “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” He also wrote a column in 2011 arguing that “many evangelical Christians are more ‘un-American’ than Muslims.”

In the 1990s, he was fired as a deputy campaign manager during a mayoral race in Philadelphia for his involvement in allegedly faking a racially inflamma­tory site to discredit a rival candidate. He has since shocked observers with his “looney and unhinged” behavior and, in one film clip from a local TV show last October, he has an on-air meltdown, cursing and throwing accusations around. He left his hosting position at Clear Channel Denver shortly thereafter in undisclosed circumstances.

“There are hundreds of political agita­tors like this guy out there – and Chris Christie can handle them and situations like this. This is not even a bump in the road,” said a longtime political insider.

One man firmly in Christie’s corner is ex- New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He praises the governor for not “shying away” from the public and media over “Bridgegate.”

“I wish President Obama would be as transparent and open as Governor Christie,” Giuliani declared.