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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Christie begins his 2nd presidential campaign

By Trip Gabriel and Maggie Haberman

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey who was eclipsed by Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential primaries, announced earlier this week that he would seek the 2024 Republican nomination, setting up a rematch with the former president and expanding the field of GOP candidates.

In making a second run for the presidency, Christie, 60, has positioned himself as the person most willing to attack both Trump, his former friend turned adversary, and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who has been in second place in nearly every public Republican primary poll for months.

Christie, who declared his run on Tuesday evening at a town-hall-style event in New Hampshire, set himself apart from all other Republicans running by going directly after Trump. He called him “a bitter, angry man,” said his record in office was a failure and, in an unusually personal attack, accused Trump and family members of profiting off the presidency, referring to an investment from the Saudi crown prince.

“The grift from this family is breathtaking,” Christie said. “It’s breathtaking. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Kushner walk out of the White House and months later get $2 billion from the Saudis?”

“That’s your money he stole,” he continued, adding, “That makes us a banana republic.”

Over more than two hours, Christie also chided other Republicans in the race as being too timid to criticize Trump by name. Describing a recent appearance in Iowa of other 2024 hopefuls, he mocked their euphemistic swipes at the former president. “‘We need a leader who looks forward, not backwards,’” Christie said, his voice dripping sarcasm. “I get it! You’re talking about the way the 2020 election was stolen. And you won’t say it wasn’t stolen.”

In earlier appearances, Christie has called Trump a loser because of his 2020 defeat, and said that he was unfit to return to the White House after inciting a mob to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Christie has said that if Trump is the nominee, he will not vote for him.

Still, with polls showing Christie to be the most unpopular 2024 candidate among Republican voters, the existential question for his race is, Who will he appeal to?

The audience on Tuesday, at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, appeared to be almost entirely independent voters. Registered Republicans were hard to find. In interviews, almost everyone disapproved of Trump, which suggested that Christie could activate a small but passionate group of supporters.

“He’s a very capable guy,” Paul R. Kfoury Sr., a retired judge from Bedford, New Hampshire, said of the former governor. “Very centrist. Not a right-wing nut like so many of them, frankly, if I may be candid.” But he was skeptical of Christie’s chances in his party. “It’s a heavy lift,” he said.

New Hampshire’s many independents could play a crucial role in the 2024 Republican primary because there is unlikely to be a competitive Democratic race.

Carolyn Cicciu, 77, from Goffstown, New Hampshire, voted for Joe Biden in 2020 “because I had no choice,” she said. Now, she said she had concerns about Biden’s age.

“Whatever candidate I choose, I want it to be somebody that is not so partisan that they can’t see what’s good about the other side’s position,” added Cicciu, a retired middle-school teacher.

Christie has said he sees a path to the nomination and is not running merely as a “paid assassin” to take on Trump for the benefit of other candidates.

On Tuesday, he cited political punditry about his candidacy in a mocking voice: “Christie doesn’t really care about winning, all he cares about is destroying Trump,” he said. Then he added: “How are those two things mutually exclusive?”

“Let me be very clear,” he said. “I am going out there to take out Donald Trump, but here’s why: I will win. And I don’t want him to win.”

Still, Christie’s path to securing the nomination is complicated. He is a northeastern Republican who has not been enmeshed in the culture wars of the Trump era. His main path would necessarily be through New Hampshire, a state where he waged a fierce campaign in 2016 but ultimately came up short. And to gain traction, he will need to rely on attention from candidate debates.

His campaign will depend heavily on media coverage and a nimbleness to travel to places where that is likeliest. New Hampshire is the state where he will begin his campaign, but not necessarily where he will hunker down.

He still needs to meet the criteria set by the Republican National Committee to get on that debate stage, which includes 40,000 unique donors.

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