Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has exited the presidential race, concluding his bid with a pointed remark aimed at frontrunner Donald Trump.
“I am going to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump to ever be president of the United States again,” stated the once Trump ally, now turned critic.
Christie, a Republican, had been under pressure to step aside, allowing the party to coalesce around a viable contender against Mr. Trump. However, he refrained from endorsing any candidate upon bowing out.
On a hot microphone just before officially announcing the end of his campaign, Christie expressed skepticism about the potential of Nikki Haley, a candidate gaining ground on Trump in some polls. He asserted that she was “going to get smoked, and you and I both know it.” Christie also remarked that another rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, seemed “petrified.”
At 61 years old, Christie, polling nationally in the low single figures, announced the suspension of his campaign during a town hall event in New Hampshire on Wednesday afternoon.
His departure, five days prior to the Iowa caucuses, the initial state-by-state contests in which Republican voters choose their preferred presidential candidate, raised eyebrows. The ultimate victor will be named the Republican nominee in July, subsequently challenging the Democratic nominee, likely Joe Biden, in the November general election.
Christie, encouraged to withdraw before the upcoming New Hampshire contest, where polls suggested Haley might be narrowing the gap with Trump, stressed the urgency for Republican voters to reject the former president. Accusing Trump of “putting himself before the people of this country,” Christie implored voters to reconsider their support.
The northeastern state of New Hampshire, known for its large faction of unaffiliated voters and unpredictable outcomes, poses a potential shift in dynamics. With Christie polling at 12%, a significant portion of his supporters may now pivot towards Haley.
In response to Christie’s departure, Haley issued a statement acknowledging him as “a friend for many years” and commending his “hard-fought campaign.” However, opponents, notably DeSantis, echoed Christie’s sentiment that Haley was destined to be defeated.
Trump, in his response, suggested he might start liking Christie again after the former governor’s “very truthful statement” about Haley. The ex-president’s political action committee claimed victory, asserting that he had already defeated eight challengers before a single vote had been cast.
This marked Christie’s second unsuccessful attempt to secure the Republican nomination, having lost to Trump in 2016. His strategy in this campaign aimed to act as an attack dog for Trump’s rivals, delivering memorable moments during primary debates. However, without Trump on stage, Christie failed to land any direct blows.
Matthew Bartlett, a Republican strategist based in New Hampshire, commented on Christie facing political reality. “Republican voters do not want to hear the same attacks that they’ve heard from Democrats or even the media for the better part of eight years,” Bartlett observed.