(Bloomberg) -- Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie became the latest Republican to enter the 2024 presidential campaign, adding an ally-turned-critic of Donald Trump to an already crowded primary contest.
Christie, 60, announced his intentions at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire Tuesday night, casting Trump as a small-minded leader who won’t admit when he’s wrong.
“A leader like that thinks America’s greatness resides in the mirror he’s looking at,” Christie said. “And a lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog is not a leader.”
Christie’s entry swells the number of candidates in the race to more than 10, potentially recreating the dynamic that allowed Trump to divide and conquer the Republican field in 2016. Christie is the only one of Trump’s former rivals to return for a rematch. He dropped out of the 2016 race and endorsed Trump after finishing in sixth place in New Hampshire.
As before, Christie is signaling a strategy that would concentrate on the Granite State, starting his campaign with a two-hour town hall at Saint Anselm College near Manchester and promising perhaps 100 more such question-and-answer sessions over the next eight months.
“That’s why I didn’t do some big podium speech tonight to announce. To me, if you want to win, this is the best way to do it,” he said.
Known for a bold rhetorical style that presaged Trump, Christie served two terms as governor of New Jersey, from 2010 to 2018. He led Trump’s presidential transition and headed his opioid commission. But he broke with Trump shortly after the 2020 election when Trump refused to concede to Joe Biden.
Christie criticized the reluctance of other Republican primary candidates — who he called “pretenders” — who won’t even speak Trump’s name for fear of alienating his supporters. He acknowledged making a mistake in not attacking Trump harder in 2016, and said the 2024 nomination would have to go through the former president.
“The reason I’m going after Trump is twofold. One he deserves it. And two, it’s the way to win,” he said.
Read More: GOP Field Faces Polling, Donor Thresholds in Aug. 23 Debate
His strategy will rely heavily on a strong performance in primary debates. Christie, a former federal prosecutor and ABC news political analyst, debated Trump as a candidate six times in the 2016 primaries, then helped prepare him for general election debates as a stand-in for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and later Biden.
Trump, though, has suggested he’d skip the first two GOP debates to avoid giving oxygen to low-polling candidates, and Christie will first have to qualify to get on the stage. The Republican National Committee will require at least 1% support in polls and at least 40,000 unique donors from 20 or more states.
Trump has been dominating small-dollar contributions, but a Christie campaign would have support from a super political action committee, called the Tell It Like It Is PAC. It will reinforce his blunt-talking New Jersey brand. Unlike campaigns, super-PACs can raise and spend unlimited funds to support candidates.
On Tuesday, Christie gave a preview of the issues he’ll attack Trump on, saying he failed to finish the wall at the southern border, increased the national debt by more than $7 trillion and appeased Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Christie didn’t stop at Trump. He also criticized candidates like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, calling those who don’t support Ukraine “modern-day Neville Chamberlains.” He said he’s anti-abortion but doesn’t support a national ban, and added that he would address entitlement programs like Social Security.
Sarah Longwell, who conducts focus groups with Republican voters and publishes the anti-Trump website The Bulwark, said it’s good that Christie is joining the race to confront Trump. But she said there’s no GOP voter appetite for Christie and other candidates who forged their identities in the “pre-Trump” era.
Read More: Sununu Won’t Run for President, Will Endeavor to Stop Trump
“They see them as establishment, they see them as regular politicians,” Longwell said. “And the term ‘regular politician’ is basically the kiss of death with voters now. It’s one of the reasons you see Trump trying to paint Ron DeSantis as a regular politician.”
Polls show DeSantis as the top challenger to Trump for the nomination and that Christie is not popular. A Monmouth University poll released May 30 showed Christie had a 47% unfavorably rating among Republican and GOP-leaning voters with only 21% favorable.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said Monday he’s not running and will instead lend his voice to the anti-Trump effort as a non-candidate.
(Updates with details from Christie’s announcement event in New Hampshire.)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
BNN Bloomberg Picks
One-third of Canadians unsure if they’re covered for climate risk
Artists are worried about AI. Here is why
What is it like to live in a converted office building?
Carbon tax, trade barriers: experts on how to reduce food costs
Variable rate mortgage holders on the hook for thousands in interest: report
Half of Canadians don't think they will be ever buy a home: survey