When Chris Christie broke the news that he was dropping out of the GOP presidential contest, he told supporters gathered at the Searles Chapel in Windham, “I would rather lose by telling the truth than lie in order to win.”
But the former New Jersey governor may have told a bit more truth than he planned. Just minutes before he walked in to face the media and his supporters, Christie was caught by a hot mic on his campaign’s livestream insulting fellow candidates Nikki Haley and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.)
The livestream audio picked up a conversation Christie was having with Rep. Wayne MacDonald (R-Londonderry), a longtime Christie supporter who confirmed he was the other voice in the audio.
“She spent $68 million so far,” Christie said of Haley. “And we spent 12. I mean, who’s punching above their weight, and who’s getting a return on their investment?”
“She’s going to get smoked, you and I both know. She’s not up to this,” Christie added.
MacDonald is heard asking about polls showing Trump with a lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire and whether he believes Trump will win Monday’s caucuses. “Oh, easily,” Christie replied. “DeSantis called me, and he’s petrified.” Then the feed cuts off.
Both DeSantis and Donald Trump seized on Christie’s mistake.
“I hear Chris Christie is dropping out of the race today — I might even get to like him again!” Trump posted on Truth Social. “Anyway, he was just caught on a hot mic making a very truthful statement: ‘She’s going to get smoked…You and I both know it, she’s not up to this.’”
DeSantis posted on X: “I agree with Christie that Nikki Haley is ‘going to get smoked.’”
Reporters covering Christie’s speech were glued to their smartphones, reading the transcripts of his comments and listening to the audio when he entered the room. But Christie didn’t address the hot mic issue in his remarks or take questions from the press.
Instead, Christie recapped the theme of his campaign: Donald Trump is unfit to be president.
“And anyone who is unwilling to say [Trump] is unfit to be president of the United States is unfit for the job themselves,” Christie said Wednesday.
He made it clear his decision was an attempt to slow down Trump’s nomination.
“I want to promise you this: I want to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump ever be president of the United States again, and that is more important than my personal ambition.”
But, Christie added, he didn’t have the power to stop Trump. That’s up to the voters.
“It’s up to you. I’ve done everything I can. But it’s not up to me.”
Several Christie supporters in the audience were clearly moved by his announcement. Some told NHJournal they were unaware that he planned to announce he was leaving the race before reporters questioned them. “But he has a town hall scheduled for tomorrow,” one Christie supporter said in disbelief before the program began.
At one point, Christie became emotional as well, recounting the story of receiving a text that morning from Toni Pappas, who was in the audience, urging him to stay in the race. “I didn’t respond because I didn’t want to lie to you,” Christie said. “But I turned to [his wife] Mary Pat and handed her the phone and showed her. I told her, ‘These are the kind of people that we’re fighting for!
“It meant a lot to me to get that text from you, Toni. To hear from you that you wanted me to stay, made me feel guilty. But also made me feel wonderful.”
Asked about Christie’s comments, Pappas told NHJournal, “I sent the text because I hoped it wasn’t true when I heard the rumors.”
“I felt strongly that Gov. Christie is a voice that we need to hear, and I was hoping he would stay in the race,” Pappas added. “I believe he’s a true American, and he made a noble, patriotic decision.”
The one truth bomb Christie didn’t drop on Wednesday was which of the remaining candidates he wants to win the nomination. Instead, he used his speech to repeat his charge that DeSantis and Haley haven’t been willing to take on Trump. Instead, he said, they are attempting to appease Trump rather than defeat him.
“I never believed Donald Trump was a foregone conclusion as the nominee in our race, and I knew the case had to be made [against him],” Christie said. The other candidates failed to do that.
“Their campaign is one that doesn’t play to win. It’s a campaign that plays to not offend.”
Haley responded to the news of Christie’s departure with a statement calling him a “friend” and commending him “on a hard-fought campaign.”
Gov. Chris Sununu, a Haley supporter who has had some high-profile conflicts with Christie in recent days, echoed those sentiments.
“Chris ran a hard-fought campaign and is coming to this decision at a critical time,” Sununu said. “Defeating Donald Trump requires a consolidated field, and Nikki Haley has the momentum to do so.”
Christie supporters who spoke to NHJournal were mixed on what to do next in the GOP primary.
“I do not want Donald Trump as president, but Nikki Haley better start straightening up,” said Lori Davis of Weare, N.H. “She either talks a real talk and gives definitive answers, or New Hampshire’s not going to back her.”
But state Rep. Bill Boyd (R-Merrimack) called Christie’s news “an absolute gamechanger. Look at the New Hampshire polls with where Gov. Christie was polling and where Ambassador Haley was polling. Do the arithmetic. Margin of error, Haley’s ahead right now.”
New Hampshire Trump supporter Karoline Leavitt with MAGA, Inc., isn’t worried.
“President Trump has already vanquished eight challengers before a single vote has been cast because Republican voters want a strong leader who will reboot our economy, secure our border, make America energy independent again, and keep our families safe,” she said in a statement.
As for Wayne MacDonald, he tells NHJournal he’s not ready to move on just yet.
“It’s unfortunate that Gov. Christie suspended his campaign, but I remain convinced he is the best candidate for president. I respect his decision,” MacDonald said.
“I am uncommitted as to a candidate for president at this time.”