(Bloomberg) -- Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will challenge Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, becoming the first of Trump’s 2016 rivals to rejoin the fray for 2024.
He plans to make an official announcement June 6 at a town hall at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, which follows Iowa in the Republican presidential nominating calendar, according to a person familiar with the plans. Axios earlier reported the announcement date.
Christie, 60, is likely to add a strong anti-Trump voice to a Republican primary race that has until recently showed deference to the former president and party standard-bearer. In speeches previewing his run, Christie has argued that he would be the only one fearless enough to challenge Trump directly on a debate stage.
He would also bring a more traditional Republican message to the nomination battle: He’s been critical of Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for their failure to offer full-throated support for Ukraine in its efforts to combat Russia’s invasion and says he’ll take a harder line on federal spending — including entitlements.
But Christie’s entry also grows the Republican field to no fewer than seven major announced candidates — with several more still in the wings — potentially bolstering Trump’s divide-and-conquer strategy.
As a one-time Trump rival-turned-loyalist who is an adversary again, Christie would occupy a unique spot within the growing field of Republican challengers. He has denounced Trump’s behavior since the 2020 presidential election, and said other challengers in the field were simply trying to be “Trump Lite.”
“We’ve watched a number of declared candidates — and almost declared candidates now — who all seem to really not know what to do with him. They kind of cozy up to him. They hope that he implodes, and that if they are nice to him, that they’ll inherit his voters,” Christie said on ABC News, where he’s a paid political commentator. “You can’t beat Donald Trump by playing bumper pool.”
With the Trump-vs.-DeSantis rivalry grabbing the headlines, other candidates have struggled to get traction in polls. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson are all polling under 5%. Former Vice President Mike Pence, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum are also exploring bids.
That expansive field of candidates could work to Trump’s advantage, repeating the dynamic that helped him secure the nomination seven years ago. As the anti-Trump vote was split among several candidates, Trump was able to rack up delegates in winner-take-all state primaries with less than a majority of the vote.
Read more: Trump Changed the Rules to Make Winning the Nomination Easier
Christie was part of that 2016 scrum, dropping out of the race after a poor showing in New Hampshire and becoming the first major candidate to endorse Trump. He then helped Trump prepare for debates in 2016 and 2020 — standing in for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in mock debate sessions — and served as chairman of Trump’s presidential transition team in 2016.
A Christie campaign would likely be well financed. Christie has close ties to New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, who helped fund Christie’s super-PAC in 2016 and put him on the baseball team’s board of directors.
Known for a brash style, Christie served two terms as governor of New Jersey, a time that bridged the rise of the Tea Party after President Barack Obama’s election to Trump’s populist-driven campaign and first year in office.
The culmination of that combative governing style came in the “Bridgegate” scandal, in which three state officials were convicted or pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud-related charges for deliberately closing lanes connecting to the George Washington Bridge to cause a traffic jam in retribution against a Democratic mayor.
The Supreme Court later overturned two of the convictions, ruling that the lane closures were motivated by “political payback” but “not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime.”
Christie denied having any knowledge of the plot but later said he believed the controversy was a factor in Trump’s decision to pick Pence over Christie as his running mate.
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