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Is Chris Christie Trump’s biggest threat in GOP primary?

Jun 12, 2023

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Despite being indicted for a second time, former President Trump remains the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination. The crowded GOP field added one more challenger with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie entering the race.

While some observers call his chances of winning the nomination a long shot, Straight Arrow News contributor David Pakman says Christie’s moderate views and sharp debate skills could make him the biggest threat to Trump in the GOP primary.

Chris Christie has had a sort of spineless energy to him in a way. And that’s in the sense that in 2016, even after brutally attacking Trump and saying Trump’s got no business here, he endorsed Trump, and he stood up there behind Trump and he looked sick to his stomach, but he did it. He endorsed Trump.

He has been increasingly critical of Trump over the last couple of years, particularly since the end of Trump’s presidency into Joe Biden’s presidency. And he is now running and I have to tell you, Chris Christie is a good debater. Ron DeSantis is not a good debater. Nikki Haley is a mediocre debater. Mike Pence stays on message but he’s extraordinarily milquetoast. Chris Christie can and has made people look really stupid during debates. Go back and check out some of the 2016 exchanges with Marco Rubio, for example.

In addition to that, Chris Christie is smart, even though his politics don’t align with mine. He is a smart guy — you can tell when listening to him talk that he is a much smarter guy than many of the other people running. [Christie is a] former prosecutor and importantly, he is more moderate. He’s still well to my Right — I’m on the Left, he’s a Republican — but he is way more moderate than religious extremist Mike Pence or wacky anti-woke clown Ron DeSantis, or totally off-the-wall extremist Donald Trump. 

The 2024 Republican Primary field is getting very, very, very crowded, and I actually have a very clear choice, who would I choose as a person on the left, if you said to me, I am only going to be able to choose from Republicans in 2024. I’ll tell you who that is in a moment.
The … the 30,000 foot view on this campaign is that Donald Trump is still in a very clear, commanding lead in the Republican Primary with more than 50% support in an average of recent polls. Coming up, admittedly since he announced he was running for president, is Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor. When DeSantis announced that he was running, he was polling about 19%. He’s now up closer to 22-23, still way behind Trump, but is gaining. Will this be a small bump or will this be the start of a change in which Trump falls behind DeSantis?
I don’t know that DeSantis has what it takes to run against Trump. But in the meantime, there are many other candidates that have and will enter. We already know about Vivek Ramaswamy. His campaign is dead on arrival. We already know about Nikki Haley. Her campaign is dead on arrival. We know about Tim Scott – has absolutely no chance. But now, Mike Pence, Trump’s own former vice president, is entering entering the race. And Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor and guy who ultimately did endorse Trump in 2016, is entering the race.
What does this mean? Well, as far as Mike Pence is concerned, it is quite a situation to have the former vice president running against the very same president he served under. And one of the things that Republicans have been hesitant to do who are running, is to directly attack Trump. Nikki Haley has talked about, “Well, I’m a different generation, and I’m a woman and …” so that’s an identity play. But she has been hesitant to really attack Trump. They’ve all been hesitant to really go after Trump other than DeSantis is doing it a little bit now, because he seems to have no other path to the nomination.
Mike Pence, his mere presence in the primary is an attack on Trump. Because his presence means, “I actually think that Trump was so not a good president, that even though he is running, I’m going to try to defeat him by appealing to the very same people that put us both in office in 2016.” That by its nature is an attack on Trump. But then we get to who I think is the most interesting person in the primary and the person I would vote for if you said to me, “David, the next president will be one of these Republicans, who would you choose?” And that is Chris Christie.
Chris Christie has had a sort of spineless energy to him in a way. And that’s in the sense that in 2016, even after brutally attacking Trump and saying Trump’s got no business here, he endorsed Trump, and he stood up there behind Trump and he looked sick to his stomach, but he did it. He endorsed Trump. He has been increasingly critical of Trump over the last couple of years, particularly since the end of Trump’s presidency into Joe Biden’s presidency. And he is now running and I have to tell you, Chris Christie is a good debater. Ron DeSantis is not a good debater. Nikki Haley is a mediocre debater, Mike Pence stays on message but he’s extraordinarily milquetoast. Chris Christie can and has made people look really stupid during debates.
Go back and check out some of the 2016 exchanges with Marco Rubio, for example. In addition to that, Chris Christie is smart, even though his politics don’t align with mine. He is, he is a smart guy, former prosecutor, you can tell when listening to him talk that he is a much smarter guy than many of the other people running. And importantly, he is more moderate. He’s still well to my right. I’m on the left, he’s a Republican, but he is way more moderate than religious extremist Mike Pence or wacky anti-woke clown Ron DeSantis, or totally off-the-wall extremist Donald Trump.
So if it were up to me, I would say I’d like to see Chris Christie be president if it had to be one of these Republicans. But the most interesting question I have is, I don’t think Ramaswamy has any path to the nomination. I don’t think Nikki Haley does. I don’t think Mike Pence does. Is it possible that Chris Christie can enter this race with some force and some velocity and make an impact and start chipping away at Trump’s support? It’s a very interesting question.
And if he can’t do that, will his mere presence as a strong debater and potentially strong critic of Trump, will that put him in a position to shake the race up in a way that all of the Republican candidates damage each other and the eventual winner comes out weaker? I am very interested to see that. We will follow it.

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