Chris Christie—the former New Jersey governor turned Trump backer turned Trump antagonist—is reportedly expected to announce his second bid for the White House next week, making him the 10th Republican to join the GOP primary. His pitch to the American people? That Donald Trump, late of trying to overturn the 2020 election, sucks big time—and that he’s the only candidate willing to unreservedly say it.
According to Axios, which reported Christie’s plans for formally jumping into the race, the ex-governor’s 2024 strategy will involve:
1. Being joyful and hitting a more hopeful note aimed at America’s “exhausted majority.”
2. Being authentic—a happy warrior who speaks his mind, takes risks and is happy to punch Donald Trump in the nose. Christie’s recent interviews and New Hampshire town halls aim to recapture the brio of his 2009 governor’s race.
3. Running a national race—“a non-traditional campaign that is highly focused on earned media, mixing it up in the news cycle and engaging Trump,” an adviser said. “Will not be geographic dependent, but nimble.”
Speaking to The New York Times earlier this week, political strategist Brian Jones, who is leading the Christie-aligned super PAC Tell It Like It Is, said Christie “is willing to confront the hard truths that currently threaten the future of the Republican Party,” which was presumably a reference to the last president. He added: “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.” Despite backing Trump in 2016, Christie has been criticizing the ex-president for some time now, a break that appears to have begun in the wake of Trump’s 2020 election-fraud claims. (In September 2021, he declared that the GOP has to “stop wallowing in the past…. We need to renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth deniers—the ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts.”)
As for the other 2024 candidates, after spending months not responding to Trump’s attacks, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has started going after the ex-president following his presidential bid; in an interview last week, he accused his rival for the White House of “moving to the left,” which, for a guy who boasts that his state is where “woke goes to die,” is basically a political slur. At the same time, DeSantis has also suggested he would be open to pardoning Trump, should he win the 2024 general election. Meanwhile, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley reportedly went after Trump in a memo to donors, but then refused to comment on a jury finding him liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll. Former VP Mike Pence, who is also expected to get into the race—perhaps sooner rather than later—has said history will hold Trump accountable for the January 6 insurrection, but also tried his hardest not to testify to a grand jury, until a judge made him.
As the Times notes, Trump isn’t the only GOP candidate Christie has warned the country should be concerned about, having “repeatedly taken shots at…DeSantis of Florida.” Commenting on the governor’s absurd feud with Disney, he said, at an event with Semafor: “Where are we headed here now that, if you express disagreement in this country, the government is allowed to punish you? To me, that’s what I always thought liberals did. And now all of a sudden here we are participating in this with a Republican governor.”
But obviously, Trump is Christie’s main focus. In March, he told Axios that he won’t even support the ex-president as the potential GOP nominee, which even Pence—who Trump almost got killed!—won’t commit to. “I can’t help him. No way…I just don’t think that person is appropriate for the presidency,” Christie said. (He also added: “I can’t imagine myself voting for Joe Biden, either,” so if you were concerned he was overly worried about the fate of democracy, fret not.)