On the trail: Christie says he and Sununu only ones ‘unequivocal’ about Trump

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

For the Monitor

Published: 10-20-2023 7:56 AM

For two and a half years, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been one of former President Donald Trump’s harshest critics in the Republican Party.

And as he bids for the 2024 GOP nomination in a race where Trump is the commanding front-runner, Christie has been the loudest voice in the relatively large field of contenders to take on the former president.

Christie – a one-time ally – says his opposition to Trump may give him an edge as he and his GOP nomination rivals seek to land the endorsement in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who has also long been a critic of the former president.

“Chris has supported me rhetorically, meaning he and I are the only two people saying the same thing in this state about Donald Trump,” Christie told reporters on Thursday after filing to place his name on New Hampshire’s GOP presidential primary ballot. “Chris has been unequivocal about Donald Trump and so have I and we’re the only two people who’ve been unequivocal about it.”

Pointing to some of his other rivals in the 2024 race, Christie argued that [former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov.] Nikki Haley is all over the map. [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis is all over the map. [South Carolina Sen.] Tim Scott’s all over the map. [Biotech entrepreneur] Vivek Ramaswamy’s practically Trump’s corner man.”

And Christie emphasized “what I appreciate the most is that Chris has been willing to step up and tell the truth regardless of what some of the short-term political ramifications are for that with him for some members of our party. And so, the thing I like the most rhetorically, he and I are on the same page.”

Christie highlighted that “Chris Sununu and I have been friends for 12 years. I have enormous respect for him as a person and as a governor… he’s done a really great job here for eight years.”

“We’re very similar governors in terms of the way we governed in states that have a lot of similarities. So, if the outgrowth of all that is he decided I’d be the best person for him to support, I’d be thrilled,” he emphasized. “I would love to have him on my team. I make no secret about that.

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Christie, who’s placing nearly all his chips on the Granite State as he runs a second time for the White House, said “I’m up here earning New Hampshire votes. Not taking anything for granted. And I hope one of those New Hampshire votes I earn is Chris Sununu’s. And we’ll see what the importance of it all will be. I don’t know, but it would be important to me personally to know that somebody that I respect as much as I respect Chris thought I would be the best person to be President of the United States.”

Sununu, who flirted for months with a White House run of his own before announcing in June that he wouldn’t seek the presidency, has repeatedly said he’ll make an endorsement before the primary.

“I still plan on endorsing. I don’t know who it will be right now. We’re trying to narrow that down,” the governor reiterated this week. “I’m not going to wait too long. My sense is November. Early December. Just like most voters, I’m going to start narrowing this thing down and then when I go, I’ll go.”

Eight years ago, Christie’s presidential campaign crashed and burned after a disappointing and distant sixth-place finish in New Hampshire, far behind Trump. Trump crushed the competition in the primary, boosting him toward the nomination and, eventually, the White House.

Christie became the first among the other GOP 2016 contenders to endorse Trump and for years was a top outside adviser to the president, chairing Trump’s high-profile commission on opioids. However, the two had a falling out after Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Biden.

Christie kept up his verbal attacks on Trump as he took questions from reporters on Thursday.

“He’s completely full of crap, and he makes it up as he goes along,” Christie charged.

Christie also argued that Trump – who’s facing four indictments including two for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden – is “a soulless human being. He cares about no one but himself. And any New Hampshire voter who thinks he gives a damn about you, your life, your family, you’re kidding yourself. He doesn’t. So, if you think this race has been interesting up until now, I haven’t got my tank full of gas yet. He’s in for it.”

And Christie emphasized that “guys from New Jersey are used to dealing with obnoxious blowhards from New York our whole life, so we have no problem dealing with them in a presidential race.”

Christie also pledged once again to confront the former president, saying “we’ve got 100-plus days until the primary. Donald Trump and I will come face-to-face, whether it’s on a debate stage or whether it’s when he’s walking out of a building somewhere,” Christie said.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung, responding to Christie’s broadsides, charged “what a sad, pathetic parasite. He should really drop this fake tough guy act because everybody knows he’s a bitch.”

The former president returns to New Hampshire on Monday to file to place his name on the primary ballot.

Christie arrived at the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office in the State House in Concord an hour after Sununu – down the hall in the Executive Council chambers – announced a new task force to help make the New Hampshire’s border with Canada more secure. The governor unveiled that he’ll use $1.4 million in funding from New Hampshire’s current budget to boost tenfold patrols by state and local law enforcement along the nearly 60-mile border.

Ramaswamy – who filed a day earlier to place his name on New Hampshire’s presidential primary ballot – took to social media to write, “It’s not ‘Build-the-Wall’ anymore. It’s Build Both Walls. I visited the Northern & Southern Borders this month. This isn’t a technical challenge, the country that put a man on the moon can fix this. It’s a question of political will.”

Christie, asked about his rival’s proposal, said it was “another dumb idea” from Ramaswamy.

“If he really wants to be considered a serious candidate in this race with these dumb ideas he’s putting forward, how about you guys start pressing him on it,” Christie told reporters.

Ramaswamy, responding, told this reporter, “Wake up from your slumber, Chris. This is how a bipartisan establishment created our border crisis in the first place. The number of illegal crossings at our northern border this year surpasses the last 10 years combined. Once we seal the southern border, the northern border is the next frontier, and I refuse to play from behind.”