Chris Christie is everywhere.
The former governor of New Jersey and former Republican presidential candidate denounced “conspiracy theorists” in a September appearance at the Ronald Reagan Library in California. He continued with a speech this month to influential Republicans in Las Vegas, warning that the party will only succeed if it comes up with a “plan for tomorrow, not a grievance against yesterday.”
In the meantime, he’s been interviewed by everyone from Laura Ingraham on Fox News to David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, on CNN.
At first glance, Christie’s ad campaign is at the service of “Republican Rescue,” his new book that offers a simple prescription for his party: stop talking nonsense about 2020 and focus on the future – or keep losing. the elections. But the breakneck pace of his appearances and the increasingly obvious punches against Donald Trump suggest Christie is planning a political comeback with the 2024 campaign in mind.
In a recent interview, Christie said he has yet to make a decision about his political future and will only do so after next year’s election. But he was frank in saying he would run if he believed he could be elected.
“If I see a path to victory, I’ll run,” he said. “And I feel like I have the skills, the talent and the ability to be able to make a difference in our party and in the country. And I am certainly not, at 59, ready to retire. But I won’t do it if I don’t see a path to victory. This is why I am not making any decision now.
One of the biggest questions hanging over the 2024 campaign is whether Trump will stand for re-election. If the former president does, polls suggest he would easily win the nomination. But until that is decided, Christie is testing the openness of GOP voters to someone who broadly supports Trump’s record but rejects Trump’s lies that the last election was stolen.
It’s an approach that pits him against other Republicans who may run in 2024, including Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who have taken prominent positions against Trump.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Mike Pompeo, Trump’s former secretary of state, have presented themselves as fierce Trump followers. Former Vice President Mike Pence has tried to find common ground, highlighting his work alongside Trump but noting that the two have different views on the circumstances surrounding the Jan. 6 insurgency on Capitol Hill.
While candidates largely fall into the pro and anti-Trump camps, “there is one thing about being in a one-way street that actually endorses some of President Trump’s policies but at the same time doesn’t hesitate to criticize where Christie would be. disagree with him, ”said Adam Geller, longtime GOP pollster. He worked on Christie’s two winning campaigns for governor of New Jersey as well as Christie’s 2016 presidential candidacy, followed by Trump’s.
Others aren’t so sure, claiming Christie aligned himself with Trump until it was no longer politically practical.
“This is clearly spurious,” said Tim Miller, former spokesperson for the Republican National Committee and outspoken critic of Trump. Chris Christie has helped Donald Trump maybe more than anyone else in setting up the Republican Party. And now he wants to get the kudos for saying something that is reality but without any reflection on what he did to get us here.
Christie and Trump have had a complicated relationship for almost 20 years as “friends”.
As an American lawyer, Christie successfully sued the father of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Trump and Christie were fierce contenders for the GOP nomination in 2016. After Christie retired from the race, he became the first elected official to back Trump, a move that gave legitimacy to the future president’s campaign. .
“The line of support for Donald Trump starts behind me,” Christie recently told Ingraham.
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Christie replaced Democrat Hillary Clinton in preparation for Trump’s debate in 2016 and was recognized for her loyalty by being tasked with chairing the presidential transition. But after the election, Christie was fired from that role in a move seen as retribution for the elder Kushner’s lawsuit. Yet Christie eventually found her way back into Trump’s inner circle, as the head of the administration’s commission on opioid abuse, as an informal adviser, and again helping to prepare for the debate. last year.
But Christie describes Trump’s reaction to the 2020 election won by Democrat Joe Biden as a breaking point. In appearances and interviews, Christie said he was “incredibly disappointed and disillusioned” by Trump’s refusal to concede the election, which resulted in his supporters storming the Capitol by his supporters Jan.6 in the goal of stopping the certification of Biden’s victory.
Christie now maintains that the party must disavow Trump’s lies and overcome his grievances if it is to be successful. Voters, he argues, “want common sense and they want common sense.”
“As Republicans, we must break free from the quicksand of endless grievances. We need to turn our attention to the future and stop wallowing in the past. We need to face the realities of the 2020 election and learn – not hide – from them, ”he writes in the book, calling on the party to get rid of plots and focus on providing voters with an alternative positive to democratic policies.
Trump began to fight back. In a statement this month, the former president said Christie was “just absolutely slaughtered by his claims that Republicans need to step out of the past.”
Christie rejected the flashback. “Anyone can say whatever they want. These are my opinions. That’s what I believe, ”he says, and he’s already thinking about how a 2024 campaign might be different from 2016. His previous bid was heavy on town hall-style events for voters in New Hampshire, home to the country’s first presidential primary. . Christie finished sixth there.
A second campaign, he said in the interview, would be different.
“You won’t just see me wandering up there. One of the things I learned is that when I first ran movement is not progress, ”he said. “I’m going to be very thoughtful about what I’m doing, both before a decision and certainly if I decide to present myself, in the way I run a campaign and try to make sure that all the time I spend really matters. . “
For now, Christie seems to be delighted with the attention he is paying to his return to the political game after a hiatus that included a bout with COVID-19 that landed him in the intensive care unit. He’s working on a second book focused on ‘bringing the country together’, co-chairing a national Republican group focused on redistribution strategy and serving as the primary fundraiser for the Republican Governors Association, a group he once led, giving him access to some of the party’s biggest donors.
GOP strategist Mike DuHaime, a longtime Christie advisor who worked on Christie’s 2016 campaign, said it was too early to talk about a race so distant.
“You can’t plot so many things,” he said. “And there are so many other factors beyond our control that you just have to say what you think and do what you think is right.”