“Governing is about choosing. And governing is about compromise. When did compromise become such a dirty word?” Christie said.
“Look, are there things that I would have done differently? Sure,” Christie added. “But I’m not going to trash Kevin McCarthy over this. He had a responsibility.”
Christie, a Trump-acolyte-turned-enemy, entered into a crowded and growing Republican field on Tuesday, pitching himself in part as a rational, middle-of-the-road option for GOP voters. While discussing the debt negotiations, Christie warned that a government without compromise might as well be “a dictatorship.”
Christie filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday afternoon. He announced his presidential run hours later in a town hall hosted at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Such is Trump’s dominance of Republican polling – in which he leads his closest challenger, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, by wide margins – others in the field have been slow to turn their fire Trump’s way.
Declared but low-polling candidates include the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, the South Carolina senator Tim Scott, the former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur.
While Christie has insisted he is “not a paid assassin”, the 60-year-old is certainly a seasoned brawler.
“The reason I’m going after Trump is twofold. One, he deserves it. And two, it’s the way to win,” Christie said at the town hall. He also compared Trump to Voldemort from the Harry Potter books.
Christie’s claims to fame include leaving office in New Jersey amid a scandal about political payback involving traffic on the George Washington Bridge to New York, then leaving the Florida senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign in pieces after a debate-stage clash for the ages.
Christie was quick to drop out of that campaign, then equally quick to endorse the clear frontrunner. He stayed loyal despite a brutal firing as Trump’s transition coordinator, fueled by old enmities with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and only broke from Trump after the Capitol attack.
And voters are already questioning Christie’s anti-Trump bona fides given his long allyship with the former president. Christie, who stuck with Trump through 2020 until his election denials began, claims he wouldn’t vote for Trump again. But he also told an audience in New Hampshire that, knowing what he knows now, he’d still pick Trump over his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.
Christie plans to again run a New Hampshire-focused campaign, despite likely GOP primary voters in the state showing little interest in the former New Jersey governor in a pair of spring surveys.
His old allies in the state are starting to come on board again. Former New Hampshire GOP Chair Wayne MacDonald said in an interview late last month that he’s “absolutely” with Christie again even after being “approached” by other campaigns for support.
“Those of us who supported him in New Hampshire are excited about the prospects of him running again,” MacDonald said. “He’s a great candidate, he’ll be a great president.”
But his support for Trump dried up soon after, as the former president, following his loss to Biden, fed his supporters a firehose of conspiracy theories and false claims of widespread voter fraud while pushing to overturn his defeat.
Like many Republicans, Christie criticized Trump after a violent mob of the then-president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, derailing the peaceful transfer of power to Biden. But while much of the GOP establishment softened its stance on Trump in the ensuing months, Christie kept up his criticism.
Christie’s announcement on Tuesday, which followed his filing with the Federal Election Commission earlier in the day, came a day after fellow GOP moderate Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, opted against running and less than 24 hours before former Vice President Mike Pence officially enters the race. Like in 2016, Christie is seeking to appeal to more traditionally conservative, establishment-friendly Republicans – and hope that he can emerge as a foil to Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in a rapidly growing field.
Also similar to that first run: Christie is part of a crowded field that, if history is any guide, could pave the way for a nominee currently running with less than majority support among Republicans. Along with Trump and DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott have all launched bids. Pence, who has already filed paperwork to run, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum are expected to join the crowd on Wednesday.
Christie on Tuesday touted his ability to be a pugilist while also making a case for compromise – something he called out DeSantis, a former Freedom Caucus member in the US House who now enjoys unified GOP control of the state legislature, for never succeeding at or even attempting.
He also chided DeSantis and Trump over their murky positions on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and, in what sounded like a jab at DeSantis’ and other primary candidates’ attacks on “woke ideology,” said the field included a bunch of “pretenders” who are “talking about issues that are so small that sometimes it’s hard to even understand them.”
Christie offered a less edgy take on Biden, accusing the president of “dividing” voters but also recalling their decades-old relationship. Being “timid,” “quiet” and “not speaking to us regularly” were, as Christie told it, Biden’s foremost sins. Along with his age.
“He’s a nice man. He’s out of his depth because he’s not the guy he used to be,” Christie said. “Father Time always wins.”
Christie’s flirtation with presidential politics began in 2011, when he considered running in a primary to take on then-President Barack Obama a year later. He demurred, then saw his standing with Republicans sag ahead of 2016. His 2016 campaign was short-lived and most memorable for Christie’s mocking evisceration of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in a February debate.
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