Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie on Wednesday announced that he would suspend his long-shot bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, clearing a wider path in New Hampshire for former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley as calls to exit the race and consolidate support behind an anti-Trump alternative grew stronger.
Speaking at a townhall in Windham, N.H., Christie was caught with a hot mic during his campaign’s livestream, just minutes before the announcement. During the conversation, he appeared to make a reference to Haley, saying that “she’s going to get smoked” and that “she’s not up to this.” The former governor also said that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “called me, petrified.”
Christie has not had conversations with Haley about his decision, and he came to the conclusion that he would not be able to win, according to one person with direct knowledge who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to disclose private discussion. They said Christie feels that people have to see on their own that Haley won’t be able to defeat Trump, and that he does not want to be blamed for being a spoiler in the race.
In recent days, Christie had faced increasing pressure among Republicans and donors who do not support Trump to drop out, including New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who endorsed Haley. Sununu, a longtime friend of Christie, told reporters in Rye, N.H., last week that Christie had a chance to “be the hero” and swing the state in Haley’s favor.
2024 presidential election
End of carousel
“While obviously the Trump people don’t care for Chris too much, I think the last thing Chris wants to do is upset everybody else,” Sununu said. “He has a chance to come in and be the hero, to put Nikki over the top, to give her, to deliver Trump that loss, Nikki that win.”
He added that while he is “not telling Chris that he has to get out,” Christie “is smart enough to see the writing on the wall.”
For his part, Christie said Sununu has changed since he endorsed Haley, and had denounced him for suggesting that he suspend his campaign as recently as Tuesday evening.
“Since Chris started to work for Nikki Haley and become an employee of Nikki Haley, it’s not the same Chris Sununu anymore,” Christie said on CNN’s “AC360” last week.
“It pains me to say this, but Governor Sununu is a liar,” Christie told WMUR just last night about pressure to end his campaign from the governor. “If he wants to say something to me, he’s got my number.”
“If there came a moment in time where I felt I had no path to winning, I’ve said this since June, I would get out,” Christie added Tuesday. “That has nothing to do with Nikki Haley or anyone else in the race.”
Christie’s exit from the race is welcome news for Haley and her supporters. The two former governors had been battling for the same pool of undeclared voters and those opposed to Trump. But he and his allies have pushed back against the idea that his supporters will automatically move to support Haley if he were to drop out. He’s sharply criticized Haley, accusing her of trying to be all things to all people and hitting her for refusing to rule out serving as Trump’s running mate.
If his supporters do turn to Haley, it would help her close the gap with Trump. A CNN poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire released yesterday found Trump leading the state with 39 percent of likely GOP primary voters, followed by Haley at 32 percent. Christie received 12 percent support in the poll.
Christie, 61, portrayed himself on the campaign trail as a straight-talking truth-teller and had hoped to lift his campaign with breakout moments during the GOP primary debates — but Trump ultimately declined to appear on the debate stage.
The brash former governor placed less of a focus on culture war issues favored by Republican candidates in recent years and staked out some stances that were more moderate than his fellow 2024 candidates.
He called for continuing U.S. aid to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian attacks. In the second GOP debate, Christie said migrants who came into the United States illegally would be apprehended and sent “back across the border from which you came.”
Christie notably opposed a federal abortion ban.
“I’ve always been pro-life with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother,” Christie said in an emailed statement to The Post. “I believe these are decisions that should be made by governors, state legislatures and their citizens at the state level. The states, not the federal government, should be making these decisions.”
But the heart of Christie’s campaign was always his criticism of Trump. When candidates at the first debate were asked whether they would support Trump if he were convicted of any of the 91 counts he faces in four criminal cases against him, Christie indicated that he would not. “Someone has got to stop normalizing this conduct,” he said, which drew applause and boos from the audience. The booing, Christie said, “doesn’t change the truth.”
Christie’s positioning in the 2024 campaign stood in stark contrast to Christie and Trump’s previous political relationship. The two East Coast Republicans with reputations for generating viral moments had, at one point, been politically aligned.
During the 2016 campaign, Christie finished sixth in New Hampshire’s GOP primary, dropped out and endorsed Trump. He even briefly served as the head of Trump’s transition team. Christie was replaced by Trump’s three adult children and his transition books were thrown into the trash.
Christie later said his ouster was orchestrated in part by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose father Christie had prosecuted years earlier. As a result, Christie said Trump tried to govern without having “the very best people in front of him.”
He ratcheted up his criticisms of Trump after the president falsely claimed victory in the 2020 election, and he escalated the condemnation further after a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol while Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021. That night, Christie told ABC News that Trump “violated his oath” and “betrayed the American people.”