MANCHESTER, N.H. – Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie says he’s inching up in the latest GOP nomination polls because of his very vocal criticism of former President Donald Trump.
But those same surveys also indicate that Christie’s favorable ratings are well underwater among likely Republican primary voters, with respondents in one poll saying the former two-term New Jersey governor is the GOP candidate they’re least likely to support.
Christie, who two weeks ago launched his second White House bid, said in a Fox News Digital interview in New Hampshire on Thursday that his game plan for pumping up his favorable ratings is to ‘come up here, and you campaign.’
‘Remember this,’ Christie said. ‘Eight years ago when I came up here, my unfavorables were upside down 25 points in the first poll. And on primary night, my favorables were up plus 30, so a 55-point swing. You know, look, people get to know me, I usually do pretty well.’
Christie placed all his chips in New Hampshire as he ran for the 2016 Republican nomination. But his campaign crashed and burned after a disappointing and distant sixth-place finish in New Hampshire, far behind Trump, who crushed the competition in the primary on his way to secure the GOP nomination and eventually the White House.
Christie became the first among the other GOP 2016 contenders to endorse Trump, and for years he was a top outside adviser to the then-president, even chairing Trump’s high-profile commission on opioids. However, the two had a falling out after Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to now-President Joe Biden. For the past two years, Christie has become one of the most vocal Trump critics in the GOP.
The former governor, who was making his first trip back to New Hampshire after launching his 2024 campaign in the state earlier this month, pointed to his vocal critiques of Trump and argued that ‘I’m saying what’s on a lot of people’s minds, that none of the other candidates are saying. And it needs to be said.’
‘I am going to be the alternative to Donald Trump,’ Christie vowed. ‘I’m going to be the person that people look at and say he’s the only one drawing a distinction between himself and Donald Trump. I am going to be the alternative to Donald Trump, and when I am, I’m going to beat him.’
Christie, who’s concentrating his firepower in New Hampshire, reiterated that Trump ‘will lead us to defeat again, and that’s the case you have to make to voters across the spectrum.’
‘By the way, I don’t buy this Trump voters stuff. He doesn’t own them. They voted for him, and they’ve said they’re leading towards voting for him this time,’ he emphasized. ‘A lot of water to go over that dam between now and then, and we’re going to make the case to every voter here in New Hampshire.’
Christie isn’t the only Republican presidential candidate who’s been vocal in their criticism of the former president, who enjoys a commanding lead in the GOP polls over his rivals as he makes his third straight run for the White House.
Former two-term Arkansas governor and former congressman Asa Hutchinson, who launched a campaign earlier this year, has long been an outspoken Republican Trump critic.
Another is one-time CIA spy turned former GOP Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, who declared his candidacy on Thursday, as the field of contenders grew to over a dozen.
Christie, who spoke with Fox News during a stop at Manchester’s iconic Red Arrow Diner, said, ‘I wish Will and Asa luck. Not too much luck, but some.’
He argued that ‘the attention I’m getting because of the way I’m saying things is different than Asa, who’s been in the race for three months and hasn’t got that kind of attention from the voters or from the media and quite frankly not quite the kind of attention that I think Will will probably get as well.’
Hutchinson, who stopped by the Red Arrow Diner about an hour after Christie departed, disagreed, telling Fox News, ‘We’ll see. Every voice is important in this race.’
But Hutchinson acknowledged that he, Christie and Hurd would ‘probably’ divide the anti-Trump vote.
He said that when he declared his candidacy, ‘I didn’t expect to have 12 candidates in the race.’
‘We’ve got to go through this period of self-evaluation that if our message doesn’t resonate, and we’re stepping on each other’s toes, then we need to say who can be the leader, and we need to make sure that we reduce those numbers as we get closer to 2024.’
But he added, ‘I don’t think people need to be dropping out before we actually have votes cast,’ as he pointed to start of the nominating calendar early next year.
Christie argued that what makes him different from the other anti-Trump candidates is his history with Trump.
‘I think my message is different, too, because I’ve known Donald Trump for 22 years. I chaired his transition. I played Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden in debate prep for him. I’m not a never Trumper,’ he stressed.
And he suggested that ‘Trump voters who’ve voted for him in the past can look at me and know that I was somebody who was willing to give him a chance and worked as hard as I could to make him as good a president as he could be. But he failed. He failed our party and failed our country. And we don’t need that kind of failure as our candidate again in 2024.’
Christie also remained confident that he’ll have enough donor support to run an effective campaign.
‘We feel very good about the people we have supporting us, and you’ll see when our report comes out in mid-July that after only being a candidate for three weeks, we will have raised a good amount of money,’ he predicted.