Next week, Chris Christie will make it official: At a town hall on Tuesday in Manchester, New Hampshire, the former New Jersey governor will announce that he is running for president.
Chris Christie’s case for the presidency primarily boils down to two arguments. The first is that he’s sort of like Donald Trump—a brash, loud jerk who says what he thinks and brings a certain WFAN regular caller vibe to politics—but, crucially, is not Donald Trump. The thinking here is that Republican voters want someone who is a jerk (probably true) but would like that person to be more competent and even-keeled than the former president (the jury is still out). On this point, moreover, Christie may have the thinking backward: GOP voters like Donald Trump when he is brashly criticizing other Republicans (like Chris Christie) but may not be quite so keen on hearing an establishment figure go at Trump. Still, Christie is betting that he can outmuscle Trump on the debate stage—the way he once bullied Marco Rubio (but not ... Donald Trump).
On that point, Christie is also betting big that New Hampshire is the place to mount his political comeback. There is some logic to this. In 2020, Joe Biden easily bested Trump in the Granite State, performing five points better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. New Hampshire voters may be souring on Trump, the thinking goes; in any case, primary campaigns need momentum and Christie is banking on finding some in New England. The big problem with this theory though is that Christie has been here before. Christie famously destroyed Rubio’s presidential campaign on a New Hampshire debate stage shortly before the state’s 2016 primary. Doing so didn’t help Chris Christie—he dropped out shortly after the election after winning a shade over 20,000 votes (7 percent) in the state’s primary in 2016. Instead, the candidate he helped was … Donald Trump. Christie is betting that the game has changed since, but he’s an even more marginal figure in Republican politics now than he was then, even if the taint of Bridgegate has worn off. There’s nothing to suggest that this time around will be any different for Christie.