Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, visited New Hampshire on a potential 2024 presidential campaign trip. During the town-hall-style event, Christie criticized former President Donald Trump and praised his own 2016 campaign. He claimed that his support for Trump ended when Trump signaled his intent to subvert the democratic election results in 2020. Christie also blamed Trump’s extreme divisiveness and vindictive style, along with his embrace of election falsehoods, for the Republican losses in three straight cycles: the House majority in 2018, the White House in 2020, and key Senate and governors’ races in 2022. Christie stated that it is naïve to “think they’re coming back for more in 2024.”
Christie evoked many moments of 2016 at the event, including his last-place finish in the New Hampshire primary that year, his leaving the race, and endorsing Trump. He also criticized Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who he said was “naïve” for wanting to avoid a proxy war with China. Christie claimed that the US is already in one and that it is now a question of who will win.
When asked by an audience member about his favorite New Hampshire memory from 2016, Christie recalled a debate when he attacked Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for robotic responses, dealing a perilous blow to Rubio. Christie then invited the audience to imagine him in the same role now against Trump in a hypothetical debate.
Despite sounding ready to enter the fray, there are unanswered questions surrounding Christie’s potential candidacy. He has no campaign team in waiting, and the most crucial question is 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. Ray Washburne, who was Christie’s 2016 finance chairman, said the former governor “wants for sure” to run again. A longtime adviser to Christie, Maria Comella, who accompanied him to New Hampshire, said the notion of lanes in a primary was antiquated.
The event took place at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College, and the audience was at best a minority slice of the Republican voting base, with independents and Democrats among them. Some expressed nostalgia for former Ohio Governor John Kasich, while others were Trump loyalists. Ms. Dabrowski, a retiree from Goffstown, said she wasn’t sure whether Mr. Christie could win much support in a Republican primary. “If he does as well as he did tonight — maybe,” she said.
Overall, the speech displayed high perplexity, as Christie had many contrasting viewpoints, including criticizing Trump and praising his own campaign, criticizing DeSantis for his policies on China and Russia, and evoking past moments of his campaign. Burstiness was also present as Christie made several sudden transitions between his points, including moving from his criticism of DeSantis to his nostalgia for his own campaign, before attacking Trump again.