Former NJ governor holds town hall in New Hampshire
Former NJ governor holds town hall in New Hampshire
“I have to tell you; it was not a layup that I’d be here – far from it,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told the crowd gathered at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday night, as he officially announced he would seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president of the United States.
The town-hall-style event harkened back to his early days as New Jersey’s governor, while the New Hampshire location evoked 2015 and 2016 vibes when Christie frequented The Granite State to lay the groundwork for his then-nascent presidential campaign. But June 6 was a markedly different type of presidential announcement, made within a changed political climate from the last time Christie declared his candidacy during a 2015 hometown event held at the gymnasium of his alma mater, Livingston High School.
Beside a memorable viral debate takedown of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that prior Christie campaign never gained traction, posting a disappointing sixth-place finish in the New Hampshire Primary, coinciding with the rise of Donald Trump, who Christie would endorse after dropping out of the race, on the former’s way to the nomination and then the presidency.
All of that feels like a lifetime ago and, certainly, a political lifetime ago.
And on Tuesday night, there was the 60-year-old Christie – now an ABC News analyst who is polling at just barely 1% (or worse) – right back in New Hampshire, promising this time to take Trump on directly first, en route to a November 2024 clash with President Joseph Biden.
In explaining why he decided to run, Christie pointed to one question that kept coming into his mind about the country and its future.
“And I wondered what our choice was going to be,” said Christie. “Were we going to be small or were we going to be big?”
From there, the former governor noted that he has watched the country get smaller over the last decade in all facets, from the way people talk to each other to the way people look at each other to the things that they talk and get angry about.
“And I thought to myself, ‘why do I continue to get this feeling that America, for the first time in its history, is getting smaller,’” he continued. “And what I concluded is because we’ve had leaders who have led us to being small – small by their example; small by the way they conduct themselves; small by the things they tell us we should care about; smaller and smaller. And they do it in other ways too. They’re making us smaller by dividing us into smaller and smaller groups. And they sell to you that we should get into these smaller groups because we’ll be more comfortable.”
As Christie criticized current leaders of both parties for the chaotic situation, he pointed in contrast to pivotal times in America’s past where leaders and the country were forced to think and act big.
“All throughout our history, there have been moments where we’ve had to choose between big and small,” Christie explained. “And I would tell you, the reason I’m here tonight is because this is one of those moments.”
Throughout the speech declaring his candidacy, Christie criticized Trump – his onetime friend, the former president and the current GOP frontrunner – by name, as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is firmly in the second-place slot in the 2024 race, so far. Christie has said he will draw a contrast from the rest of the Republican field by his willingness to take on Trump, who he once endorsed and advised, and voted for twice.
“We can’t dismiss the question of character anymore, everybody. If we do, we get what we deserve and we will have to own it,” said Christie. “So, let’s talk about candidates for a second. I just will tell you this, that if you are in search of the perfect candidate, it is time to leave. I am not it. And not only am I not the perfect candidate, I’m far from the perfect person.”
I just will tell you this, that if you are in search of the perfect candidate, it is time to leave. I am not it. And not only am I not the perfect candidate, I’m far from the perfect person.
As Christie recounted the highs and lows of his career, he noted mistakes and trusting people he said he shouldn’t have.
“And it resulted in me, at one point in my career, admitting that I was publicly embarrassed and humiliated by the things that had happened on my watch,” said Christie. “And those are days when you wonder whether it was worth it to do this.
“But I will tell you, there’s never been a day where those great moments are the thing that got me out of bed, or those horrible moments were something that kept me in. What got me out of bed every day was that in public leadership in this country, you have a chance to do something great every day. You give men like me a chance to do something great every day, and that’s what gets me out of bed. That’s what got me out of bed for those years on the good days and bad days. And when I made those mistakes, I admitted them. See, because I think what true leaders do is not try to pretend to you that we’re perfect. Because we’re human just like you.”
“I’ll say to you tonight, ‘that I can’t guarantee you success in what I’m about to do,’” said Christie, quoting a letter from John to Abigail Adams during the Revolutionary War. “But I guarantee you that at the end of it, you will have no doubt in your mind who I am and what I stand for and whether I deserve it. So, that’s why I came back to Saint Anselm’s. And that’s why I came back to Manchester. And that’s why I came back to New Hampshire. To tell all of you that I intend to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States in 2024, and I want your support.”
Following the announcement, Christie took questions from the audience in the familiar town-hall setting that initially put him on the map and forged his early political reputation as a straight-talking fighter with New Jersey swagger and attitude.
Much of the early part of this campaign will center on playing into that strength, with town-hall-style events in early primary states such as New Hampshire, combined with a media savviness and acuity to potentially create viral social media moments. And all of those efforts will be critical to his bigger goal of reaching the debate stage. That requires certain thresholds to be met, where Christie’s mic skills can be used to potentially create another Rubio-esque moment that he hopes can spark his campaign further this time out.
But Christie’s effort will be a true uphill climb with few pathways to the GOP nomination in his current polling position and with limited bandwidth, at the moment, for anyone not named Trump or DeSantis to break through.
“According to early presidential primary polling, Chris Christie’s chances of getting the Republican nomination for 2024 looks pretty slim right now. He’s averaging 1% in an increasingly crowded field and has low favorability ratings among GOP voters,” said Ashley Konig, an assistant research professor and director of Rutgers’ Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. “Let’s not also forget that he left office in 2017 with the lowest job approval and favorability of any New Jersey governor on record, and his presidential aspirations in 2016 quickly ended in New Hampshire after months of single-digit support in the polls.”
Konig said that given all of these factors, it may be difficult to understand why Christie is throwing his hat back in the ring.
“If he can hone his political talents to take down Trump, which he has already been working on in recent years, other Republican presidential candidates, politicians and voters in the Never-Trump camp may be grateful,” said Konig. “That kind of triumph could even give Christie a coveted position in a new Republican administration or within the party — something he never received from his former friend Trump. If Christie loses the nomination, his involvement in 2024 could still be the redemption arc he solely needs.”