Chris Christie is making another run for the White House — a long-shot campaign in which the former New Jersey governor will seek to position himself as the field’s most credible critic of Donald Trump.
Christie, who filed campaign paperwork on Tuesday, has spent weeks sharpening his attacks on Trump in preparation for his launch, testing a message that he — and he alone in the growing field of 2024 GOP contenders — has the guts and the skill to knock the former president off his perch atop the party.
The problem for Christie: It was too little, too late when he tried that tactic in 2016. And Republican primary voters don’t seem any more open to it today.
Trump continues to hold double-digit leads over the rest of the field — numbers that improved as his legal woes deepened and as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis fell back before he entered the race.
Christie, meanwhile, has been largely an afterthought in surveys, registering in the low single digits, if at all. He would need to score at least 1 percent support in three national surveys and have at least 40,000 unique donors (and also commit to supporting the party’s eventual nominee, even if it’s Trump) just to qualify for the first debate on Aug. 23 in Milwaukee.
Still, Christie, 60, has said he wouldn’t enter the primary unless he saw a path to victory, maintaining that he’s “not a paid assassin.” His foray into the Republican field is the result of weeks of public and private deliberations in which he’s huddled with donors and old political allies and trekked to New Hampshire for two town halls. He’ll launch his campaign in another New Hampshire town hall on Tuesday with the backing of a super PAC helmed by longtime advisers.
Christie’s last presidential campaign went down in flames. He logged more visits to New Hampshire than any other GOP candidate in 2016. But he dropped out of the race after finishing in a dismal sixth place in the first-in-the-nation primary with little more than a debate-stage evisceration of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to show for his efforts.
He then turned around and endorsed Trump, becoming the first of his former rivals to do so and setting off a coalescence of GOP brass behind the brash outsider that Christie now says was a “strategic error.”
Christie has eschewed the notion of needing a lane this time around. But he’s carved a clear one for himself as Trump’s chief critic — bludgeoning the former president at a time when his competitors and would-be rivals continue to measure their remarks about the polling leader. He called himself not just a viable Trump alternative in a recent Daily Beast interview, but “the viable Trump alternative.”
Christie blames Trump for Republicans’ losses in 2018, 2020 and 2022 and argues the party will lose again if he’s the nominee in 2024.
But the great GOP reckoning the establishment hoped for after the party’s underperformance in last year’s midterms hasn’t happened. Instead, the former president continues to hold many state parties and grassroots activists in a vise grip — a reality Christie now has to navigate in his quest for the nomination.
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And voters are already questioning Christie’s anti-Trump bona fides given his long allyship with the former president. Christie, who stuck with Trump through 2020 until his election denials began, claims he wouldn’t vote for Trump again. But he also told an audience in New Hampshire that, knowing what he knows now, he’d still pick Trump over his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.
In addition to pummeling Trump, Christie has repeatedly laid into DeSantis, slamming his foreign policy chops after the Florida Republican mangled his stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine and skewering his handling of his ongoing battle with Disney.
Christie plans to again run a New Hampshire-focused campaign, despite likely GOP primary voters in the state showing little interest in the former New Jersey governor in a pair of spring surveys.
His old allies in the state are starting to come on board again. Former New Hampshire GOP Chair Wayne MacDonald said in an interview late last month that he’s “absolutely” with Christie again even after being “approached” by other campaigns for support.
“Those of us who supported him in New Hampshire are excited about the prospects of him running again,” MacDonald said. “He’s a great candidate, he’ll be a great president.”
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