March 29, 2023
Chris Christie wants a New Hampshire do-over. That was the overriding message on Monday night, March 27, during a visit that Christie, a 2016 presidential candidate, made to the state—a testing-the-2024-waters trip in which he sharply criticized Donald J. Trump and waxed nostalgic for his own short-lived primary campaign seven years ago, reports The New York Times.
Christie—the former Republican governor of New Jersey (2010-2018) who is mostly an afterthought so far in polling of a potential 2024 field—evoked many moments of 2016 at the town-hall-style event. Both he and audience members revisited his last-place finish in the New Hampshire primary that year, his leaving the race and endorsing Trump, and his eager support for the former president right through the 2020 election.
Christie said that his support abruptly ended on election night in 2020, when Trump signaled his intent to subvert the democratic results. Ever since, he said, Republicans have been dragged into “a sinkhole of anger and retribution” by the former president.
“You know what Donald Trump said a couple of weeks ago?” Christie said. “‘I am your retribution.’ Guess what, everybody? No thanks.”
Asked by an audience member for his favorite New Hampshire memory from 2016, Christie recalled a debate when he attacked Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for robotic responses; at the time, many observers said he had dealt a perilous blow to Rubio. Mr. Christie invited the audience to imagine him in the same role now against Trump.
“You better have somebody on that stage who can do to him what I did to Marco,” he said.
Yet for all that Christie sounded ready to enter the fray, there are unanswered questions. Unlike some other potential candidates, he has no campaign team in waiting. He has spoken to heavyweight donors at Republican retreats in Texas and Georgia, but he is not raising money because there is no campaign to give to.
Most crucial is the question of whether there is a lane in the Republican primary contest for such an outspoken critic of Trump — who has the avid support of about one in three primary voters. No other potential Trump rival in his party has wielded such a sharp knife as Christie.
He blamed Trump’s extreme divisiveness and vindictive style, along with his embrace of election falsehoods, for Republican losses in three straight cycles: the House majority in 2018, the White House in 2020 ,and key Senate and governors’ races in 2022.
“Particularly suburban women abandoned” Trump “because they had enough,” Christie said. It is naïve, he added, to “think they’re coming back for more in 2024.”
Ray Washburne, who was Christie’s 2016 finance chairman, said the former governor “wants for sure” to run again. The challenge, he added, is clear: “What lane does he take? Being total anti-Trump loses a base of 35%.”
A longtime adviser to Christie, Maria Comella, who accompanied him to New Hampshire, said the notion of lanes in a primary—in which candidates appeal to one portion of an electorate defined by demographics and ideology—was antiquated.
“The idea that at some point there has to be a pathway or a lane—and it was this very calculated structure and everyone fit into one and if you didn’t there wasn’t a viable path —I think it’s as if we’re back 20 years in a campaign cycle,” she said.
Christie has said he will decide on his plans by mid-May.
Research contact: @nytimes