Chris Christie drops presidential bid

In a column posted earlier today, I posed the question: Does Chris Christie want to be remembered as the guy who saved Donald Trump? The answer he has now given is: No!

In a town hall in New Hampshire on Wednesday evening, Christie announced he was dropping out of the race. Things got awkward, with him being recorded on a hot mic before the event predicting that Nikki Haley was “gonna get smoked” by Donald Trump and saying “she’s not up to this.”

But once he took the stage, in his official remarks he stated that he did not see a path to the nomination for himself and that he did not want to “enable” a Trump nomination as he did in 2016 by decapitating Senator Marco Rubio in New Hampshire and then endorsing Trump. This was the honorable thing to do.

Christie sought redemption on this campaign for his prior support for Trump, being the candidate willing to state unequivocally that Trump is unfit for office while his rivals for the nomination tiptoed around criticizing the former president. But with a few recent polls finding that Haley was within single digits of Trump in New Hampshire, the pressure was growing for him to exit the race. Right now, however remote, the most plausible scenario in which Trump is not the nominee involves Haley consolidating the support of anti-Trump voters in New Hampshire. That would have been much harder with Christie in the race.

Haley could still very well “get smoked,” as Christie suggested in an unscripted moment. But if she does, he can still argue that he did everything he could to prevent a Trump nomination. He warned of the dangers of Trump being the nominee and of a potential second term — and then he dropped out to make more room for Haley. If Trump still wins, nobody can reasonably argue that Christie helped make that a reality.

Christie joined the race in June as the most vocal Trump critic in the Republican field. He called Trump a “lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog,” in his campaign announcement.

The former blue-state governor focused his campaign solely on New Hampshire, where he reached third place in polls but failed to come close to frontrunner Donald Trump, or Nikki Haley, who emerged as Trump’s most formidable opponent in the state.

Christie increasingly faced calls to drop out as the New Hampshire primary neared and polling indicted a tightening race between Haley and Trump. A CNN/University of New Hampshire poll found Haley coming within seven percentage points of Trump in the Granite State in early January, while Christie notched 12 percent support – enough to potentially make-or-break Haley’s bid to defeat Trump in the state.

And in national polling, Christie failed to break through, sitting in fifth place with an average of 3.5 percent support, per a RealClearPolitics polling average.

Christie initially pushed back against calls to drop out, expressing concern that Haley would not say whether she’d accept an offer from Trump to run as his vice president should he win the nomination. 

“Let’s say I dropped out of the race right now and I supported Nikki Haley,” Christie told supporters. “And then three months from now, four months from now, when you’re ready to go to the convention, she comes out as his vice president. What will I look like? What will all the people who supported her at my behest look like?”

“I’m not going to make the same mistake again,” Christie said. 

Christie first ran for president in 2016, finishing sixth-place in New Hampshire before dropping out and becoming the first high-profile Republican presidential candidate to endorse Trump.

He’s still haunted by that decision, releasing an ad earlier this month admitting he “made a mistake” in endorsing the forty-fifth president eight years ago. Still, the former New Jersey governor went on to support Trump’s reelection bid in 2020 and even helped him prepare for the debates.

Throughout the 2024 race, Trump refused to participate in any of the Republican National Committee-sponsored debates, depriving Christie of the confrontation which served as the motivating rationale for his campaign.

The former New Jersey governor has pledged not to support Trump if he becomes the nominee, but has said he would “absolutely” support Haley or Florida governor Ron DeSantis if they won the nomination.

Haley reacted to Christie’s exit in a statement on Wednesday: “Chris Christie has been a friend for many years. I commend him on a hard-fought campaign. Voters have a clear choice in this election: the chaos and drama of the past or a new generation of conservative leadership. I will fight to earn every vote, so together we can build a strong and proud America.”

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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