Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, joins the 2024 presidential race with the goal of separating the Republican Party from the influence of Donald Trump. Despite slim chances of winning, defeating Trump is Christie’s ultimate aim. Can he find support for his anti-Trump message within a party that mostly backs the former president? Learn about Christie’s uphill battle and his strategy to stand out among other Republican candidates.
Chris Christie’s run for president is a challenging endeavor, driven by more than just winning the White House. The former governor of New Jersey, now 60 and having spent several years away from elected office, is determined to free the Republican Party from the hold of Donald J. Trump. While Christie’s chances of winning are uncertain, he sees toppling Trump as a significant victory in itself.
In March, at a New Hampshire college where he announced his candidacy, Christie highlighted the need for a candidate with the skills and determination to challenge Trump’s influence, fully aware that it won’t be an easy task. He previously gave important support to Trump’s celebrity campaign by endorsing him after his own failed presidential bid in 2016. However, Christie has now taken on the mission of bringing about Trump’s downfall.
The main question is whether there is a receptive audience for Christie’s message within a Republican Party where Trump still enjoys overwhelming popularity. Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary to Trump, doubts that Christie’s approach as a “kamikaze candidate” will resonate. Spicer wonders if those who disliked Trump’s mean tweets will appreciate a candidate who is equally critical of Trump.
Christie’s own history presents challenges as an anti-Trump messenger. Throughout Trump’s presidency, Christie stood by the president, even enduring a near-fatal Covid-19 infection during debate preparations in 2020. He only distanced himself from Trump over the false claims about the election and the violence on January 6, 2021. Christie’s sudden change of heart raises doubts about his credibility as a Trump opponent.
Despite his aim for victory, Christie’s primary goal is to redefine the Republican Party away from Trump’s influence. He believes that defeating Trump requires someone who can effectively confront him, drawing from his experience of challenging Marco Rubio during his previous campaign. However, his first obstacle will be qualifying for the debate stage, as the Republican National Committee has set strict criteria for participation.
Early polling shows that Christie faces a particularly tough path compared to other candidates with low poll numbers. In a late May CNN poll, he received only 2 percent support, tied for fifth place with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Moreover, a significant majority (60 percent) of Republicans expressed that they would not support Christie under any circumstances. In contrast, the figures were lower for DeSantis and Trump.
Despite these challenges, Christie’s team sees an opportunity in being the only candidate willing to break away from Trump so unequivocally. They have formed a super PAC called Tell It Like It Is, led by experienced Republican strategists. Christie’s decision to focus his campaign in New Hampshire, a state crucial to his political strategy, reflects his approach. He aims to outline his vision for the nation in more detail as the campaign progresses.
However, there is skepticism about Christie’s intentions beyond challenging Trump. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board questioned whether his actions could inadvertently impact other candidates. Some speculate that Christie might unintentionally undermine Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is also competing for the nomination. Even Sean Hannity, a prominent host on Fox News, questioned whether Christie’s motivation to attack Trump overshadows his desire to win the nomination.
As Christie enters the race, the road ahead is undoubtedly tough. His campaign will require him to overcome significant obstacles, including qualifying for debates and gaining support from the Republican electorate. Yet, in a crowded field of candidates, Christie hopes to stand out by strongly opposing Trump and offering a distinct vision for the future of the Republican Party. Only time will tell if his strategy will resonate with voters and bring about the change he envisions.