In February 2016, Chris Christie announced his withdrawal from the Presidential race after a disappointing performance in the New Hampshire, first-in-the-nation, primary. Today, seven years later, the former Governor of New Jersey is again in the Granite State, presenting his new bid for the White House.
Let me be clear, I do not believe for a second that Chris Christie has any chance of winning the Republican nomination for President, but his campaign is worth watching and listening to. In sharp contrast with the other Republican contenders, Governor Christie is vetting a new strategy: breaking Trump's spell on the GOP.
In the last few months we have seen notable Republicans launching their own presidential campaigns: former and sitting Governors, Senators, businessmen, and even mayors. All but one have complied with the unofficial policy of the Republican Party: do not name Donald J. Trump. Even candidates who have a history of bipartisan policymaking and approval like Nikki Haley and Tim Scott have decided to ignore the former President, neither praising nor criticizing him. If one were to be transported through time and space right from 2015 and brought to a rally of theirs, they wouldn't even know Trump was President, let alone that this is his third time running for the White House.
On one hand, they might be correct. From a numerical, statistical perspective, there are more Republicans who support or would consider supporting Trump than Republicans who'd rather not. I think that has been clear for quite some time now as the former President managed to build a network of endorsements based on blackmailing and bullying fellow Republicans. But Chris Christie has another idea of how a successful campaign in the 2023 Republican Party should be run.
Chris Christie believes he can go after the large, grey zone of registered Republicans who would "consider" voting for Trump but currently support other candidates. While representing a large share of the party, it does not account the 30-35% of strong, unwavering support for the former President: his core base. Christie seems to think that a third, if not more of the party, is "in love" with the former President because, for years, they had been hearing only what Trump said or what he wanted other people to say about him (through the above mentioned network based on blackmailing). Chris Christie wants to wake up Republican voters from the spell Donald Trump had cast on them.
In 2016, with so many candidates on the same stage, it was hardly possible to attack the NY estate mogul, let alone unite against him. Dozens of candidates were attempting anything to gain one more percent in the polls and often their electorates coincided, meaning they would go against each other. Trump, on the other hand, was left intact by this dogfight, from which he was able to capitalize as much as he liked. This time, even as the field remains divided, Christie plans on destroying Trump as the "idol".
Watching his recent town halls, speeches and interviews, Christie wants to portray Trump as a narcissistic con-man whose only priority is himself. In familiar and unfamiliar environments, to friendly, and especially unfriendly, audiences, the former Governor of the Garden State has been uncovering the Trump behind the scenes, the one he used to work with, the one who truly led the country for four years. The image he portrays is one of corruption, lack of character, disinterest in the country's future, and incompetence.
On the "Faith and Freedom Coalition" podium, where all the other candidates had stood and not a single word about Donald Trump had been uttered, Christie challenged the heavily conservative audience. "I am running because he has let us down. He has let us down because he is unwilling, he is unwilling to take responsibility for all the mistakes that were made and any of the fault that he has and any of the things he's done. And that is not leadership, that is a failure of leadership. You can boo all you want but here's the thing, our faith teaches us that people have to take responsibility for what they do, people have to stand up and take accountability for what they do." By the end of the speech, the room was clapping. Speeches that go under your skin, make you think and doubt yourself are much stronger than those who tell you what you want to hear. And that is the difference between Chris Christie and the rest of the Republican field.
"Because the Truth Matters" isn't only a campaign slogan, it's what he is running on: "telling the unvarnished truth about where our country and our party stand right now". He believes the Republican electorate has been rendered unable to objectively judge Trump by the years of relentless propaganda, but also because of the sometimes exaggerated, unjustified attacks from the left (which had caused a "rally around Trump" effect within the party). He thinks that when all voters will be able to see Trump for who he really is, they will vote him out (again).
One of the speeches from Christie I appreciated the most was when he attempted to analyse Trump's behaviour post-indictment. In troubled times, this country needs a man (or a woman) of character to lead, someone who has principles and knows what he's doing. Trump is not that person. If Trump is anything, he certainly is a person who lacks the moral character or authority to lead the United States of America. He didn't in 2016, and he certainly doesn't now.
Paying off a pornstar with campaign money, verbally and physically molesting women, hiding classified documents and showing them around as trophies, are not the actions of someone who can sit behind the Resolute Desk. Donald J. Trump, and I will say this as long as he keeps returning on the political arena, is not fit to be President of the United States, he never was and never will. What he did right in his Presidency was the product of the advisors party insiders had told him to hire, people with experience and knowledge. He said they were "American heroes", "the best we could hire", "true patriots", yet they would quit one after the other. Why? Working with Trump and his personality must not have been easy and the lack of qualifications in the Oval Office must have scared them. One by one, they went from "great", "wonderful", "sophisticated" people to, in the President's words, "cowards", "RINOs", "traitors".
So if you believe what Trump said when they left, then he must be unable to pick the right personnel, surrounding himself with the worst possible people. Certainly not the quality of someone who'd like to be President. But if you believe what he said at the start of his administration, then he must be the worst manager of all times to let them go, one by one. In any case, he remains a pathological liar.
Chris Christie, again, doesn't have as much of a chance to beat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, but he's doing God's work by attempting to open the eyes of so many voters who for long had ingested the lies of a petulant child turned politician. I am not sure he is the perfect messenger for an internal revolt against the former President, given the trouble he went through at the end of his latest term as Governor, but he is convincing and he knows what he is doing. Christie may not have any chance, but his poll numbers have been rising fast in NH (7%, 8%, and 9% per three different pollsters) and Trump's favorability is at a new low in the Granite State. Donations have been increasing as well. If Christie manages to get on that debate stage against Trump, he may do wonders.