Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — who advised Donald Trump’s White House campaign in 2016, only to become a vocal critic of the former United States president in recent months — will launch a bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination next week, news reports said, citing sources familiar with the plan.
Christie, 60, enters the race as a decided underdog, six years after his 2016 presidential campaign failed to gain traction amid a crowded field that included Trump. Only one percent of Republicans said he would be their preferred 2024 nominee in a Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted from May 9 to 15.
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A former federal prosecutor, Christie has cast himself as the only potential candidate willing to aggressively take on Trump, the current frontrunner for the nomination. He was a longtime friend and adviser to Trump, but broke with the former president over his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election. Christie has since emerged as a leading critic of Trump.
Christie dropped out of the 2016 presidential race a day after finishing sixth in New Hampshire’s primary.
Ending weeks of speculation about his intentions, Christie will officially launch his campaign at a town hall at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire on Tuesday, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters, confirming earlier reports from the publication Axios.
Christie has urged his party to move on from Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged, including in his book Republican Rescue. That stance could theoretically earn him some support from moderate Republicans eager to turn the page, though it will alienate Trump’s still-powerful base of voters.
In March, Christie told Axios he would not vote for Trump in 2024 even if the former president was the Republican nominee. He has also argued in public appearances that he alone has the skill and willingness to go toe-to-toe with the pugnacious Trump.
“As we all know here in New Jersey, the governor is a proven leader who fearlessly tells it like it is,” Bill Palatucci, a longtime Christie adviser who will chair a political action committee supporting his candidacy, wrote in a message to New Jersey Republican State Committee members on Tuesday.
Christie has played the role of attack dog before. In a memorable debate appearance shortly before he ended his 2016 campaign, Christie mocked US Senator Marco Rubio for memorising his lines, a performance widely seen as irreparably damaging to Rubio’s campaign.
Trump, who announced his campaign last year, leads among Republicans in public polling.
In addition to Trump, other Republicans running for president are Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, US Senator Tim Scott, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and biotech entrepreneur and “anti-woke” activist Vivek Ramaswamy. Former Vice President Mike Pence and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu are among those weighing candidacies.
The nominee would face Democratic President Joe Biden, whose re-election campaign faces no notable intraparty opposition.
A two-term governor from Democratic-leaning New Jersey, the brash and charismatic Christie was once viewed as a rising Republican star who held rare cross-party appeal.
But his second term in office was tarnished by the only-in-New-Jersey “Bridgegate” scandal, in which two of his aides were accused of deliberately closing lanes at the heavily trafficked George Washington Bridge to punish a local mayor who refused to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign.
Meanwhile, Christie’s relationship with Trump and his family has taken a winding path. As the US attorney for New Jersey, he prosecuted Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, for tax evasion and other crimes.
He and Trump exchanged plenty of barbs during the early stages of the 2016 campaign. But just weeks after dropping out of the race, Christie endorsed Trump over other rivals, giving his candidacy a boost at a critical juncture.
While he served as a Trump campaign adviser, Christie became a political liability late in the race, when witnesses testified during his aides’ criminal trial that he knew of the bridge lane closures. Christie has denied knowing about the plot until afterward.
Nevertheless, Christie was passed over, first for vice president and later for attorney general. Three days after Trump’s surprise victory, Christie was fired as the head of Trump’s White House transition team.
Since the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, Christie has jabbed at Trump on numerous occasions. He blamed the former president for the Republicans’ disappointing showing in the 2022 midterm elections and called Trump’s conduct “unacceptable” after a federal jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing the writer E Jean Carroll in the 1990s.
Christie was also a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination but was beaten by eventual nominee Mitt Romney.