NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Before a single vote was cast in the 2024 US Presidential race, New Jersey’s controversial former Governor Chris Christie dropped out, marking the end of his second failed presidential campaign.
“I was wrong. I made a mistake,” Christie said in a campaign advertisement, stopping short of apologizing for backing his former friend and ally, ex-President Donald Trump.
Six days later, Christie announced he was leaving the race.
“It’s clear to me tonight that there isn’t a path for me to win the nomination, which is why I am suspending my campaign to be President of the United States,” he told the crowd at a January 10 town hall gathering his campaign organized in Windham, New Hampshire.
Christie’s campaign had largely been focused around opposing Trump, who is seeking a return to power after losing the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump is currently leading the contest for the 2024 Republican nomination, despite criminal charges pending against him in several jurisdictions.
While Governor, Christie sought the presidency in 2016, dropping out in February and shocking the political world by endorsing his then-friend Trump.
“I knew his flaws, but I also knew he was going to win the nomination, so I decided I would get behind him and support him,” said Christie, who acknowledged he had already known Trump for 15 years at the time.
Before making the fateful 2016 endorsement, Christie referred to Trump as “a thirteen-year-old,” “painfully naïve,” and summed up Trump’s role in the race that year as “an entertainer who doesn’t have temperament or experience to be President.”
For his part, Trump highlighted the biggest scandal of Christie’s gubernatorial administration, insisting that Christie “totally knew” about the alleged criminal conspiracy to purposefully cause traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Though the two Republicans put aside their differences for the remainder of the election, tensions often arose throughout the tumultuous transition and a chaotic four years of Trump’s presidency.
Despite a myriad of red flags, scandals, and disturbing behavior as President, Christie stood by Trump for re-election in 2020. Even when Trump infected Christie with the COVID-19 virus, Christie continued to publicly support the man’s re-election.
Only after Trump refused to admit defeat in the 2020 election did Christie break from his alliance with Trump, who went on to incite a coup attempt that led to death and destruction inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
“The character of the candidate” is the most important issue in this year’s race, Christie said in his 2024 farewell speech, where he pledged not to help Trump become President again.
It marked a sharp departure from his takes in 2016, shortly after Christie had thrown his support behind the celebrity and real estate mogul, when this reporter asked him if he thought Trump was “an honorable man.”
Christie responded by defending Trump’s honor, calling this reporter a “joker” and refusing to answer further questions about Trump for the remainder of the press conference.
“Yes, [Donald Trump] is an honorable man,” said Christie.
Eight years later, Christie holds a much dimmer view of his former friend, and those who refuse to call him out: “Anyone who is unwilling to say that [Trump] is unfit to be President of the United States is unfit themselves to be President of the United States.”
Christie frequently predicted Trump will be found guilty on at least one of the criminal charges he is facing, expressing outrage that people would still support him even if he is found guilty.
The former Governor frequently cast himself as a crime-fighter, saying his time as the state’s top federal prosecutor made him the right choice to challenge the criminal defendant ex-President.
“I’m not someone who speaks about this theoretically… I ran the fifth largest US Attorney’s Office in the country in New Jersey, where we have some of the greatest criminals in America,” Christie told a crowd in Merrimack, New Hampshire.
“We are so proud of our criminals. In fact, they make TV shows about our criminals,” Christie joked. “Those are the people that I was fighting against for seven years as United States Attorney.”
Trump’s chief challengers at the moment are former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who was also an ambassador in his administration, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Before Christie took the stage to drop out, he could be overheard dishing on his opponents when the video feed his campaign had set up went live.
“She’s gonna get smoked, and you and I both know it,” Christie said, ostensibly talking about Haley while a title screen appeared on the feed.
Christie also said DeSantis had called him earlier that day, “petrified” about something, but the audio cut out.
It’s unclear if the “hot mic” moment was intentional, but it was fitting.
Christie did not endorse any other candidate as he left the race, and it’s unclear what the future might hold for Christie, who left the Governor job with extremely low levels of support in New Jersey.
As we reported, Christie has spent time lobbying for some of New Jersey’s major hospital systems, including RWJBarnabas Health, through his own company, Christie 55 Solutions.
Christie became Governor after winning an upset victory in 2009, and securing re-election in 2013. He was prevented from running in 2017, due to a limit of two consecutive terms.
Christie’s frequent campaigning out-of-state and the ongoing prosecution key former administration officials made it difficult for the Governor to maintain support here. A state government shutdown, combined with even more scandals, including one that saw Christie’s mentor plead guilty to bribery, to make him even more politically toxic.
But it looked like Christie wouldn’t need New Jerseyans to back his rise to power. With Trump, the New Yorker who was known for making deals, in the White House, it appeared Christie could have a path to the coveted position of US Attorney General.
Instead, Christie never took a formal position in Trump’s government, and settled for getting his own personal attorney, Christopher Wray, hired as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Today, Christie’s political future is unclear.
New Jersey’s largest newspaper published a letter from a New York state resident who suggested Christie run for the seat held by indicted US Senator Bob Menendez.
Others speculated Christie could be the standard bearer of the newly-formed “No Labels” party, which is reportedly hoping to run a centrist candidate for US President this year.
Television pundits, including one who previously worked for President Biden, mused whether Christie might cross party lines to ultimately endorse the Democrat incumbent.
“Can he do it? Yes. Will he do it? I don’t think immediately… He may not be ready yet. ” said Jen Psaki, a former spokesperson for the Biden administration who now works in television.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.