Christie’s Comeback: Campaign or Crusade?

By Jason Collins 

Christopher Christie, a member of the Republican Party and candidate in the 2024 Republican primaries, has seen a surprising surge in support from an unlikely source. Is this newfound support a result of the change in his campaign tactics, a targeted effort to damage Trump by the shrinking caucus of traditional Republicans, or is this just a fluke of nature? We took a deep dive into Christie and his role in the upcoming presidential election. Who is Christie, what is his role in the primary field, and does he have a chance to win? 

Who is Chris Christie?

Chris Christie has always been involved in local politics and government in some way or another. New Jersey native Christie began his career serving as a legislator for Morris County in New Jersey. Then he worked for Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush in their presidential campaigns. 

Christie then was elected as a United States Attorney for New Jersey, a role which he carried out for six years. During this time, Christie was the person who oversaw hundreds of public officials’ convictions, making a name for himself by fighting corruption.  A callback to this could have inspired his change of tactics in his current presidential campaign. 

After completing his six-year stint as an attorney, Christie was elected as Governor of New Jersey, a position he kept until his term expired in 2018. Christie saw his fair share of scandals as governor, including the famous Bridgegate incident. This political scandal involved Christie and other staff members colluding to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge. While the official reason from Christie and his staff was for “traffic studies,” many others believed this was an attack on Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, an opponent to Christie.  

The investigation into this incident left a sour taste in the mouths of many Republicans and went on to affect Christie’s reputation in his presidential campaign. 

Dismal 2016 Presidential Campaign 

It seems that Christie’s tarnished reputation from the Bridgegate incident followed him into his presidential campaign. In June 2015, Christie announced that he was running for president in the 2016 presidential elections. However, this campaign only lasted a short six months after a poor showing at the New Hampshire primary, where he failed to gain more than 7% of the vote. 

This was even after he had visited the state a whopping 195 times, more than any other candidate at the time. Christie himself and a New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University poll cited the Bridgegate scandal as the reason for such low ratings. A widely circulated photo of him embracing President Obama only days before the 2008 election certainly didn’t help either. 

A Second Chance in 2024 

The failure of his 2016 campaign does not seem to have discouraged his political ambitions, as in June this year, Christie announced that he would be running for president yet again.

His first campaign appearance this year was at a New Hampshire town hall, the state that had previously crushed his presidential dreams in 2015. At the event, Christie declared;

“I can’t guarantee you success, but I can guarantee you that at the end of it, you will have no doubt in your mind who I am and what I stand for and whether I deserve it.”

He passionately told the audience, “That’s why I came back to New Hampshire to tell all of you that I intend to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2024.” 

Since his announcement Christie has been busy building his campaign and setting himself apart from other candidates by taking Trump head on, especially over the events of Jan.6. Christie believes that Trump was wrong in trying to have the 2020 election results overturned. Over the month of August, Christie has been busy gaining traction in mainstream media by participating in town hall events in Florida, a conference in Georgia, and a digital ad in New Hampshire all while criticizing Trump.  So far, Christie’s plan to dominate mainstream media seems to be working as he has been gaining traction, primarily from never-Trump supporters.  

In the 2024 National Republican Primary, Christie is sitting in fifth place with a 3% approval rate, which is just ahead of Mike Pence but still under candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, and Ron DeSantis. Christie’s campaign focuses on New Hampshire. He hopes to score an upset win there as an alternative to Trump. In order to accomplish this Christie would have to pass numerous candidates, including the anyone other than Trump favorite, DeSantis. Polls taken from Fivethirtyeight.com show that on August 28, Christie only had 5% of the vote in New Hampshire. 

Christie has always been known for his sharp tongue and tell-it-like-it-is attitude, and so far, he has delivered his attacks loudly and swiftly. 

A Razor-Edged Tongue 

While the official slogan for his campaign is “Because the truth matters,” it seems more apt to call his campaign “A crusade against Trump.” Christie started off his campaign in New Hampshire by calling Donald Trump a “lonely, self-consumed mirror hog.” 

This set the tone for what type of campaign he is running, which is less about telling the truth and appealing to Republican primary voters and more about bashing his now rival, Trump. During the first presidential debate, Vivek Ramaswamy had called Christie’s campaign one made up of “grievance.” One wonders whose grievance Christie is campaigning against Trump on. The donor class that wants the GOP base to shut up and return to electing Mitt Romney types?

Christie explained to the crowd in New Hampshire, “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.” 

Throughout his campaign, Christie has thrown attack and attack after Trump calling him a coward and a Putin puppet. Trump hasn’t been the only target of these attacks. Newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy was in the firing line during the first presidential debate in August, where Christie compared him to ChatGPT.

Christie’s Campaign Gains Traction From Democrats  

Christie’s sharp tongue and anti-Trump remarks have garnered him a boost in support, but not from a place many expected – from the Democrats. Christie has ditched traditional campaign methods, out with the old and in with the new, and is favoring a strategy that will put him on the television screen and social media clips out in front of Democrats. 

While Christie’s campaign team has claimed they’re not directly targeting the Democratic audience, they’re not rejecting it either and have welcomed the growing support. This potential support from the Democrats could increase the chances of Christie finally passing through New Hampshire with a win, a state that was previously a massive stumbling block for him.

Democrats supporting a Republican candidate is not unheard of; John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign is proof of that. However, this is not a recommended strategy in the long run and one that many Republicans are unhappy with. One of the biggest reasons why many Republicans are against this strategy is a question of Christie’s loyalty to the Republican party. A regular on mainstream media political shows before his presidential bid, Christie represents to many Republican voters the type of politician that won’t fight for them. By setting himself up as the opposite of Trump, Christie is at odds with the vast majority of the GOP base that fully supports the former President. Needless to say, this makes getting the votes of these people virtually impossible. Christie was regularly booed during the first primary debate. His ideas and policy are not in line with the Republican-leaning electorate. 

Christie’s popularity, such as it is, appears to be a result of his new anti-Trump campaign that appeals to Democrats and a precarious minority of Republicans pining for a return to the Bush era. It’s difficult to see how this could possibly lead to the GOP nomination. Does he have any way to increase his support beyond the current 3-5%? Can he outlast Mike Pence and Nikki Haley consolidating their voters? Only time will tell as we draw closer to the 2024 elections. Christie will have a chance to appeal for more support this month at the second Republican presidential debate held on September 27.