WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican activists at a national gathering are defending New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – but also saying it’s far too soon to grant him presidential front-runner status.

At the same time, a senior Christie adviser said the governor already has overcome the worst of his challenges, though federal prosecutors have issued subpoenas to his recent campaign and Democrats are pressing their abuse-of-power accusations.

All the comments came as activists from across the country gathered in Washington this week for the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting.

Christie’s popularity has fallen amid revelations that senior members of his administration helped create massive traffic jams, apparently to exact political retribution against a Democratic mayor. Additional allegations of political bullying also have emerged.

Four people close to Christie have been fired or have resigned.