By Kate Scanlon | OSV News
Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced his second presidential campaign in New Hampshire June 6, entering the fray in a Republican primary that also includes former President Donald Trump, previously his ally.
In remarks at a town hall at St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Christie previewed a campaign that will take direct aim at Trump — a risky proposition in a GOP primary, as Trump still has high approval ratings among Republican primary voters, although low ones with the general electorate.
Christie argued Republicans should not trust their presidential nomination to Trump again.
“Beware of the leader in this country, who you have handed leadership to, who has never made a mistake, who has never done anything wrong, who when something goes wrong it’s always someone else’s fault, and who has never lost,” Christie said.
Christie’s latest presidential bid follows an unsuccessful one in 2016.
Christie, who is Catholic, served two terms as New Jersey governor from 2010 to 2018. As governor, Christie rose to a national profile governing as a brash former federal prosecutor and as a Republican in a deep blue state. But his administration and political profile came under scrutiny during a 2013 scandal dubbed “Bridgegate,” in which aides issued lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, allegedly as retaliation against a Democratic mayor who did not endorse Christie’s reelection bid as governor.
After he ended his 2016 presidential bid, Christie shocked some political observers by endorsing his former rival Trump shortly before the Super Tuesday contests that year, which aided Trump’s momentum towards the nomination.
Christie and Trump then became allies. Christie led Trump’s presidential transition team for several months and later helped Trump prepare for his debates against Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign.
But Christie became a vocal critic of Trump following the ex-president’s unfounded claims of a stolen 2020 election and the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot, during which supporters of the then-president stormed the Capitol complex in an attempt to block certification of Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The riot turned deadly and caused as much as $30 million in total damages and related security costs — with $1.5 million in direct damage to the Capitol building — according to federal authorities.
“I trusted people I shouldn’t have trusted,” Christie said at the town hall, alluding to his changed relationship with Trump.
Christie became a frequent critic of Trump as a political contributor on ABC News, a role which has been suspended due to his candidacy. In a May segment on “This Week,” Christie argued GOP presidential candidates are making a “marked mistake” by taking a meek approach to Trump.
“They hope that he implodes, and that if they’re nice to him, that they’ll inherit his voters,” Christie said, arguing that is a “losing proposition.”
“You can’t beat Donald Trump by playing bumper pool,” he said.
In an April town hall event, also in New Hampshire, Christie said he was making “the beginning of the case against Donald Trump.”
“You’re not going to beat someone by closing your eyes, clicking your heels together three times and saying, ‘There’s no place like home.’ That’s not going to work,” Christie said, likening a second Trump term to “reruns.”
“Donald Trump is a TV star, nothing more, nothing less,” Christie said. “Let me suggest to you that in putting him back in the White House, the reruns will be worse than the original show.”
Trump remains the current Republican front-runner according to recent polls. Prominent candidates in the Republican field also include Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who is also Catholic, former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.
Former Vice President Mike Pence filed paperwork to run for president, and formally launched his bid after Christie June 7, setting him up as another rival to his former boss. Haley also worked in the Trump administration.
Christie and his wife, investment banker Mary Pat Christie, have four adult children.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which has called on GOP candidates to endorse a 15-week federal minimum standard for abortion, praised Christie’s record on abortion in a statement.
“Chris Christie has proven throughout his career that life is a winning issue,” Dannenfelser said. “He defied the political establishment view that an unabashedly pro-life candidate couldn’t win in New Jersey. He defeated the incumbent Democrat, was an unapologetic pro-life governor and won re-election. With this experience, he played an instrumental role in partnering with us to prepare governors for the Dobbs decision, discussing how to communicate boldly and go on offense.”
Dannenfelser argued Christie was “convinced of the humanity of the unborn child after seeing a 13-week ultrasound of his daughter and hearing her heartbeat,” and “understands that the Democrats who would not protect a single unborn baby at any stage of pregnancy — even up to birth — are the true extremists on abortion.”
“He is well poised to expose and contrast their position with the consensus among Americans that there should be significant limits on abortion,” Dannenfelser said, adding their group has called for national protections for the unborn by 15 weeks.
“We’re looking for a fearless national defender of life who will lead on this issue and work hard to gather the votes necessary to advance protections in Congress,” she said. “We look forward to Christie and other presidential contenders further outlining their pro-life vision and policy platform as the primary election unfolds.”
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Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on Twitter @kgscanlon.