With wary Republican mega-donors still searching for a viable alternative to Donald Trump, a familiar face has reemerged: Chris Christie. In recent appearances, the former New Jersey governor has been positioning himself as a bold truth-teller capable of taking down the former president—or, more specifically, the only Republican who knows how to. Christie has not announced a presidential run, but told the Washington Examiner he is “actively considering it” and will decide by “mid-May.” He has even promised not to support Trump should he win the GOP nomination next year, an outcome that seems increasingly probable.
“You better have somebody on that stage who can do to him what I did to Marco [Rubio], because that’s the only thing that’s gonna defeat Donald Trump,” Christie said Monday at a New Hampshire town hall, offering Republicans longing for a Trump kryptonite some advice (with a side of self-promotion). He was referencing the time he mocked Florida senator Rubio’s robotic speaking style during a 2016 presidential debate—an incident that seemed to mark the end of Rubio’s presidential hopes.
Trump, too, could be felled by such a blow, Christie argued, but “that means you have to be fearless, because he will come right back at you. So you need to think about who’s got the skill to do that. And who’s got the guts to do it.” What Christie did not mention was that even “Little Marco,” after suffering the debate-night disaster, still finished one spot ahead of Christie in the New Hampshire primary.
If this all sounds a little too familiar, that’s because, during the 2016 Republican primary, Christie attempted the same muscular politicking against Trump by breaking out a mocking impression of the eventual nominee and dubbing him “entertainer in chief.” That, of course, did not pan out for Christie at the time (let us remind you of how Christie looked so despondent at Trump’s 2016 Super Tuesday victory press conference that he felt compelled to insist he was not, in fact, “being held hostage” at the event).
But with his past unsuccessful efforts now in the rearview, Christie has spent this month teasing his 2024 plans and steadily upping his criticisms of Trump, including during a recent conservative summit in Georgia that featured talks from other potential Republican presidential hopefuls such as former vice president Mike Pence and New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu. Addressing a room of conservative activists and donors, Christie likened Trump to “a member of the living dead,” declaring that the party must put a stake through his heart to finally be rid of him, per reporting in The Washington Post.
Thus far, Trump’s only real primary opponent is his former ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who has shied away from taking the front-runner on directly (Trump also doesn’t seem to see her as much of a threat, saying he encouraged her to run). Meanwhile, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who is seen as the anti-Trump right’s best hope, still hasn’t launched his campaign. DeSantis is already experiencing a polling slump after weathering weeks of attacks from Trump.
GOP donors are reportedly hoping for a backup option given growing uncertainty around DeSantis’s appeal on the national scale, according to The Washington Post. One donor told the Post that DeSantis “just kind of sticks to himself and does his own thing,” an insular approach that could prove off-putting to the hands-on benefactors who bankroll presidential campaigns.
In all likelihood, Christie will not be the most tenable third option in a Trump and DeSantis matchup. After all, he left his governorship after recording the worst approval rating of any New Jersey governor in history, at 15%. None of that has stopped him from talking like he could be Trump’s top competition. “I’m going to go out there and tell the truth. Like the truth matters. The truth is not negotiable,” he told Axios this week, adding that there is “no way” he could support Trump in 2024. “Look, I just can’t,” added Christie, who, after exiting the 2016 race, quickly kowtowed to Trump. “When you have the Jan. 6 choir at a rally and you show video of it—I just don’t think that person is appropriate for the presidency.”