As former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie enters the 2024 race for the White House, he has one mission: to torpedo Donald Trump’s campaign. But his low popularity among Republicans may thwart his efforts to launch a head-on attack.
Seven years ago, his failed bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination featured debate-stage fireworks, disappointing voting results and a surprisingly early endorsement of Trump.
Now, Christie will need to take the current front-runner down a peg and then position himself as the one who can win.
“A lot of people are going to be gunning for Trump,” says Republican strategist and former party communication director Doug Heye. “There’s going to be a battle royal where everybody’s trying to throw Andre the Giant out of the ring.”
If that happens, he says, then the whole leadership race would be reset.
Christie formally filed the paperwork for his White House bid on Tuesday, but the brash New Jerseyan starts this campaign from the back of the presidential pack.
Of the announced candidates so far, only Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have any kind of widespread support in public opinion polls. Christie, according to a Fox News national survey of Republicans released last week, had the backing of less than 1 per cent of respondents. A Quinnipiac Poll put him at 2 per cent. Trump led the field by more than 30 per cent in each.
To change this dynamic, Christie will have to take advantage of limited opportunities. The most prominent is the series of upcoming Republican presidential debates that begin in late August.
Back in 2016, Christie used a debate shortly before the New Hampshire primary to eviscerate Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who was surging in the polls at the time, as too programmed and robotic. The former governor’s task will be to use his sharp tongue and aggressive attitude to achieve similar success against Trump.
“You better have somebody on that stage who can do to him what I did to Marco, because that’s the only thing that’s going to defeat Donald Trump,” Christie said in March. “And that means you have to be fearless, because he will come back right at you.”
Doug Heye, the Republican strategist, says Christie has the political instincts and talent to create a similar debate moment this time.
“Christie is not somebody who’s coming in merely to pad speech fees, do book tours and all those other things that people who really have no chance get into the race to do,” he says. “Clearly he’s somebody who potentially could pop Trump’s balloon.”
The problem for Christie is that he may never get the chance. (BBC)