Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a one-time ally of Donald Trump, is scheduled to formally announce he is entering the GOP presidential primary race at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on Tuesday. If Christie’s comments the last time he was at the NHIOP are any indication, Granite State Republicans can expect plenty of fireworks.
Asked what his best memory was from campaigning for president in New Hampshire in the 2016 primary, Christie said, “Come on. It was the debate.
“It was the debate right before the primary in 2016 when [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio and I became acquainted. And I’ll tell you that the thing that I think is important about that if I run again: Donald Trump is not going to go away by himself,” Christie said. “You’d better have somebody on that stage who can do to him what I did to Marco because that’s the only thing that’s going to defeat Donald Trump.
“So you need to think about who’s got the skill to do that and who’s got the guts to do it because it’s not going to end nicely no matter what. His end will not be a calm and quiet conclusion,” Christie warned.
Christie, 60, appears to face an uphill climb. Trump has a 30-point lead in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, and Christie is polling at one percent. Perhaps more problematic, a new Monmouth poll shows he’s viewed favorably by just 21 percent of Republican voters and unfavorably by 47 percent.
In 2016, Christie finished in sixth place in the First in the Nation primary, with about 7.5 percent of the vote.
This time could be different, of course. In a March 2023 NHJournal podcast interview, Christie said one of the things he learned running for president in 2016 is “you can never predict what is going to happen. It’s a dynamic situation, and anyone who thinks they know what’s going to happen is almost always wrong.”
Christie has locked down outside financial support, and his supporters have created the “Tell It Like It Is” PAC to promote his candidacy. And he would be the only candidate running an aggressively anti-Trump candidacy, setting him apart from the field.
“Chris Christie has one role in this race: He claims the only way to beat Trump is to run through him. If that’s his mantra, let’s see if he can deliver,” said veteran GOP strategist Pat Griffin. “Christie was among the first mainstream Republicans to endorse Trump in 2016. Now he now has a chance to atone. Run, Chris, run!”
Matt Mowers, who worked on the 2016 Christie campaign, sees some similarity between the current race and the Democrats’ 2008 contest.
“It’s almost like Hillary 2008,” Mowers said. “Some people loved her, but most Democrats felt stuck with her. Obama didn’t get in the race running as ‘Hillary Lite.’ He said, ‘I’m going to do something radically different,’ and he created a new coalition of voters that helped him win the nomination.”
Brian Jones, who worked on the John McCain and Mitt Romney campaigns, will run the pro-Christie PAC.
“Governor Christie has proven he’s unafraid to tell it like it is and is willing to confront the hard truths that currently threaten the future of the Republican Party,” Jones said in a statement. “Now more than ever, we need leaders that have the courage to say not what we want to hear, but what we need to hear.”
But is telling people things they don’t want to hear a smart strategy for winning votes?
Several Granite State GOP insiders told NHJournal Christie remains a longshot as Trump continues to enjoy the approval of the vast majority of the Republican Party.
“It’s one thing to ask Republicans to move on from Trump. It’s another to get them to repudiate him,” one New Hampshire Republican said.