HENNIKER, N.H. – Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continued testing the waters for a longshot presidential bid in New Hampshire, the primary state where he finished virtually last in 2016 and soon prompted his exit from the presidential field.
“You people didn’t treat me very nicely,” Christie joked Thursday evening to a small gathering of Granite State voters at New England College in Henniker.
Christie sought to set himself apart from the rest of the 2024 Republican field, pointing out by name how his potential opponents such as former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have declined to go after former President Donald Trump. Christie said Trump was akin to Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series, a villain so feared it’s dangerous to speak his name.
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“It’s like he’s Voldemort,” Christie said, “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.”
The former New Jersey governor says he will make a decision on running by mid-May.
If he does decide to throw his hat in the ring, the former New Jersey governor has some catching up to do in the key early voting state of New Hampshire.
Christie polls at just 1% support in a hypothetical primary, according to a poll released by the University of New Hampshire Wednesday. Leading the poll is Trump at 42% and DeSantis at 22%, the two presumed frontrunners since the beginnings of the 2024 GOP primary race. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3%.
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Christie blames Biden administration on Trump
The former New Jersey governor opened his town hall by admitting Trump is the frontrunner in the race but emphasized “he can’t come back.”
“He failed us as president based on what he himself told us in 2015, in 2016, what he would do when he became president,” said Christie, who has supported Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 election. “He failed us as a president on the promises he made to us.”
Christie blasted Trump for a plethora of reasons, pointing out his failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, mocking his attempts to build a wall across the southern border and slamming his campaign message “to drain the swamp” in Washington.
Trump’s biggest flaw? His attempts to overturn the 2020 election, Christie said.
“He undermined our democracy. And the only reason he undermined our democracy was because he was pissed,” Christie said. “He undermined our democracy because he was angry we didn’t reelect him.”
“He knows he lost to Joe Biden,” Christie added, “and that’s why he’s so upset.”
Christie also took time to attack President Joe Biden on inflation and the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. But in a way, the former New Jersey governor pinned the Biden administration on Trump.
“Biden is the product of Trump’s failures,” Christie said. If Trump wins the GOP primary in 2024, Christie made clear he thinks Republicans will see a repeat of 2020.
“If (Trump) is the nominee in 2024, Joe Biden will be the president in 2025.” Christie said.
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Christie notes Social Security and Medicare shortfalls: ‘The truth matters’
On Social Security and Medicare, an issue that has stumped prospective presidents due to the massive popularity of the programs with voters, Christie addressed the reality of the programs’ looming shortfalls – the social safety nets are set to run out of cash in less than a decade according to the annual Social Security and Medicare trustees report.
Asked how he would preserve the programs, Christie suggested raising the retirement age and excluding recipients above a certain income level.
“We need to make sure we preserve the systems, but we have to do it honestly.” Christie said. “The truth matters.”
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2020 Biden voter: ‘We’re looking for integrity’
Christie’s unapologetic attitude towards Trump was appreciated by some of his attendees, who said they are looking for honesty and integrity in a GOP nominee. But some remain skeptical of Christie even if they have a favorable opinion of him.
“We’re looking for integrity,” said Jeffrey Cooper, 71, from Portsmouth. “Do I think that he can really turn the Republican Party around? I hate to say this, but the Republican Party itself has gone so much off the rails that even if I like him I have difficulty voting for him.”
Even then, Cooper, who is an undeclared voter, said he plans to vote in the 2024 Republican primary. Cooper previously voted in the 2020 Democratic primary, campaigned for then-candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and ultimately voted for Biden in the 2020 election.
“I’m a centrist. I don’t like ideologues on either side. I like somebody who’s competent and can govern.” Cooper said, mentioning GOP New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, with whom he often agrees and disagrees. Christie, to Cooper, resembled part of his ideal candidate.
“That’s the way it goes in America. But civility is what we really need returning,” Cooper added.
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