“They’re all great people… Well, most of them,” Gov. Chris Sununu said of the GOP presidential field as he introduced former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for a town hall in Salem, N.H.

“Except the orange-haired elephant in the room,” Sununu added. “That guy’s just got an attitude problem.”

The comments came after former President Donald Trump took shots at Sununu and Christie during his rally in Windham a day earlier.

And for Christie’s town hall, that was exactly what Trump was: The elephant in the room.

The one-time Trump ally touched on many issues – government spending, inflation, the war in Ukraine, school shootings, and more – but there was no mistaking who was at the center of Christie’s remarks.

Talking about why he decided to enter the 2024 presidential race, Christie said, “No one in the field wanted to talk to you about Donald Trump.”

Christie addressed Trump’s remarks from the day prior in Windham. “My old friend Donald was up here yesterday, decided to give a speech over at a high school, and as usual, probably about a 90-minute speech, and almost all of it was about his favorite topic: Himself.”

Mocking Trump, Christie said, “‘I’m getting indicted for you. If it wasn’t me, they’d be going after you.’ Have you ever heard a bigger pile of crap in your life?”

The former president’s current legal troubles and record as president were fodder for Christie throughout his event in Salem.

“The courts will decide whether he’s criminally liable,” Christie said about the most recent federal indictment against Trump. “But he’s morally responsible for what happened on January 6th.”

About Trump’s record in office, Christie listed his shortcomings. “On the merits, he failed us. He didn’t repeal Obamacare, he added to the deficit, he didn’t reduce it, and he didn’t build the wall.”

To Lanson Simmons of Merrimack, N.H., this “straightforward approach” is exactly why he wanted to see the former governor. “What brought me here tonight to see Chris Christie in person is his candor and his forthright honesty and truth of what this nation needs to hear, and I find it very refreshing.”

Asked whether he thought Christie’s anti-Trump message would resonate with enough voters, Simmons told NHJournal, “I certainly hope so because I find Donald Trump to be an embarrassment to our country.”

While most of the audience’s questions focused on specific issues, some brought Christie back to talking about Trump.

Responding to an attendee asking whether he would consider an approach of “when they go low, you go high” when confronting Trump, Christie answered simply, “No.”

He continued, “And let me tell you why. Because we tried that with him in 2016.”

Paula of Raymond, N.H., said Christie was doing exactly what needed to be done. “I think Trump can be a big bully, and you got to deal with bullies sometimes,” she told NHJournal. “You can’t just ignore them sometimes, and that’s what he’s doing. He’s manning up, so I don’t have a problem with that.”

Neither do nine percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters. That is according to the latest NHJournal/co-efficient poll that found Christie tied with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for second place in the Republican primary field behind Trump’s 43 percent. 

With an aggressive message against the former president and current frontrunner for the Republican nomination, one voter pressed Christie on his past association with Trump, asking why they should vote for him when he endorsed Trump in 2016 and worked with Trump throughout his presidency.

Although he didn’t regret endorsing Trump – explaining that a Hillary Clinton presidency would have been worse – Christie admitted, “I was wrong because I thought I could make him better. But I couldn’t.”

Making his pitch, Christie continued, “The reason you should vote for me this time is I’m smarter than I was eight years ago.”

To close his remarks, Christie returned to another central theme throughout the town hall: New Hampshire’s all-important role as the First-in-the-Nation primary state in choosing the Republican nominee.

The former governor outlined what would happen if New Hampshire voters choose him over Trump. “The day after, that rotted building with the nice facade that is Donald Trump, when that facade gets broken through by the people of New Hampshire, the building will collapse,” Christie predicted.

“You will end his career in New Hampshire in January of 2024.”