Republicans hoping to hear Chris Christie unload his sarcasm and snark on former President Donald Trump at a business roundtable in Manchester on Monday were not disappointed. But the former New Jersey governor made it clear Trump wasn’t the only GOP candidate in his sights.
During a 90-minute event at the Palace Theater, Christie also took shots at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) He called all of them out for their unwillingness to confront Trump, particularly over his behavior on January 6, 2021.
After being introduced by Bedford businessman and GOP activist Bill Greiner, Christie told the audience that Joe Biden was the worst American president since Jimmy Carter. “The biggest reason I’m in this race is because Joe Biden has to be defeated.
“The second reason is Donald Trump is not going to beat him. He didn’t beat him four years ago, despite the fact he continues to say he did.” Christie mocked Trump for answering a question about how he plans to win back suburban women voters in 2024 by falsely claiming he won their votes “by a lot” in 2020.
“If he thinks that’s what’s going to persuade voters who didn’t vote for him in 2020 to vote for him in 2024, you all see what the problem is. That’s our problem as a party, but no one’s willing to say it.”
Christie then turned his attacks to the rest of the field.
“I’ve come not to expect any kind of straight talk from Ron DeSantis, and I don’t expect it’s going to come anytime soon unless it’s about some TV commercial he doesn’t like or something else that he’s angry about,” Christie said. “You know, the angry Ron DeSantis, one of the angriest guys I’ve ever seen run for president.
“If running makes you this angry, why would you do it?”
Christie also called out Scott for his reluctance to hold Trump responsible for January 6.
“I have a great deal of respect and affection” for Scott, Christie said. “I think he’s a really good man, I really do. But I was really disappointed this weekend when they asked him about January 6, and he said, ‘Donald Trump was not responsible for the attack,’”
After pointing out Scott was in the Capitol at the time of the riot and re-capping Trump’s actions that day, Christie asked:
“How is the guy who invited everybody there — urged them to go up there [to the Capitol], urged them to pressure Mike Pence — not responsible for what happened. It’s different than being criminally responsible. He’s morally responsible for what happened.”
He also mocked Haley for treating Trump like Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. “She’s unwilling to say his name. It’s OK, Nikki — say his name.”
Christie said he expected the other candidates in the race to be confronting Trump on some of these issues the way he is. “But as it turns out, no one else will talk about it.”
Christie argued confronting Trump and decrying his misdeeds was essential to winning the GOP primary, and he is the only candidate willing to do so.
“If we think we’re going to beat Joe Biden and Democrats by putting up candidates who are unwilling, to tell the truth to the American people, we’re going to wind up with an 86-year-old Joe Biden,” Christie said. “And I don’t know about you, but I see what the 80-year-old Joe Biden looks, and I don’t think 86-year-old Joe Biden’s gonna wear all that well.”
Christie acknowledged he was trailing in the polls, but he told the audience that was to be expected in this campaign.
“Donald Trump’s going to be ahead in every poll you see, and if he wasn’t, that would be the story,” Christie said. “Because here’s the guy who was elected president of the United States and who ran the second time and was defeated. If he wasn’t first among the Republican primary voters — who haven’t heard of anybody else or having taken the time to focus on the election — that would be quite the story.”
While the latest UNH Survey Center poll has Christie at six percent and tied for fourth place with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, his RealClearPolitics average nationwide has him in seventh place at 2.5 percent. GOP political professionals told NHJournal they didn’t understand Christie’s shotgun strategy of targeting multiple candidates.
“Is that going to be his strategy in the debates?” one Republican asked. “So maybe he takes out Tim Scott or Ron DeSantis, but are those candidate’s voters going to come over to Christie after he went after their guy?”
DeSantis supporter and former state Rep. Melissa Blasek was also confused.
“Can someone fill me in? Christie is now taking as many shots at DeSantis as Trump. I thought he was in it to make sure Trump wasn’t the nominee,” Blasek tweeted. “He’s pulling a Rubio Kamakazi attack on Desantis. Great.”