But Christie isn’t on a kamikaze mission to take out the leader. In fact, she doesn’t spare second-place candidate DeSantis at all. Instead, she’s trying to make room for more of Trump’s rivals before the Florida governor further solidifies his second-largest primary spot.
“Christie is in this to win. He’s not here just to bring down Trump, » Mike DuHaime, a senior adviser to the former New Jersey governor, said in an interview. « At some point, there’s going to be a falling out with Governor DeSantis because, frankly, he’s ahead of the rest of the field, even though it was a disappointing six months for DeSantis and it looked like it was going to be a two-way contest.”
So far, Christie is barely registering in the polls. But she hopes a strong performance in this summer’s debates — if she qualifies for them — could reverse that.
The initial premise of her run was that she would not be afraid to take on Trump and do so in a uniquely combative way. During a pre-announcement interview on The Dispatch podcast, he said, « A campaign would appear to be a direct, head-on challenge to Donald Trump. » But the formula he has used so far is not just to go after the former president, but to go after the others who don’t have the courage to do so.
He called out DeSantis — and other Republicans falling in the polls — for acquiescing to Trump as the former president faces two charges. He has also begun to counter their gubernatorial records, trying to play down DeSantis’s enterprising tone by comparing the GOP-friendly political climate in Florida to the Democratic state he led for eight years.
During a town hall hosted by CNN this week, Christie — who has endorsed Trump after dropping out of the presidential race in 2016 — tried to appeal to attendees who heard candidates take turns defending Trump and attacking President Joe Biden and the Department of Justice.
“We’re in a situation where there are people in my own party who are blaming the DOJ,” Christie said. “How about guilt [Trump?] He did it: he took some documents that he shouldn’t have taken, he kept them when they asked him back « .
When asked by host Anderson Cooper why DeSantis wouldn’t address the details of the indictment, Christie turned to the audience.
« Look, you all need to know this: They’re playing political games with you because they think, if you kinda like Trump, and I don’t say anything bad about Trump, and then Trump implodes and walks away, then it’s more likely that you vote for me, ”he said. “How about we do this? How about deciding who is the most honest and outspoken leader who has common sense and will put you first? And let’s put that person behind the desk in the Oval Office.
He went on to joke that Republicans like DeSantis who have been dancing mentioning Trump’s legal troubles are treating him like Voldemort, the fictional villain from the Harry Potter series whose name is forbidden.
“How do you hit someone if you don’t talk about it? How do you beat them if you don’t stand out from them? Christie asked.
DeSantis, in particular, appears to be a common recipient of Christie’s broadsides. He was similarly critical of the Florida governor when he announced his campaign in New Hampshire last week.
When asked about the national debt ceiling deal — which DeSantis has warned will do nothing to prevent economic woes — Christie admonished her rival for what she said was a failure to understand the need for a political compromise.
« When did compromise become such a dirty word? » Christie said. “Gov. DeSantis has never had to compromise. When he was in the House of Representatives he was in the Freedom Caucus and he just said « hell yes » or « hell no ». And as governor of Florida you have a Republican legislator who will do whatever he wants.
And before entering the presidential race, Christie took aim at DeSantis for the Florida governor’s ongoing war with Disney.
“He’s not the guy I want sitting across from President Xi [Jinping] … or sitting in front [President Vladimir] Putin and trying to fix what is happening in Ukraine, if you can’t see around the corner [Disney CEO] Bob Iger created for you, » Christie told Semafor in April. « I don’t think Ron DeSantis is conservative, based on his actions towards Disney. »
A DeSantis spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Staff of Sen. Mark Rubinowhich Christie famously eviscerated during a presidential debate in 2016, he said the current approach sounded familiar.
“The most important thing in politics is authenticity, and Christie brings that to her attacks,” said Alex Conant, who worked for Rubio and is now a consultant unaffiliated with any 2024 candidate. in throwing a punch. She seems to like it. There is no reading between the lines or being nice.
Conant said Christie needs to reduce DeSantis’ position in the race to establish herself as the leading alternative to Trump.
« No candidate can lose in an interaction on a national debate stage, » added Conant. “If they’re all on stage, DeSantis will take more hits than anyone, including Trump. DeSantis is occupying a lot of valuable political real estate right now.
But some Republicans view Christie’s efforts less favorably. To Jason Cabel Roe, another unaffiliated GOP consultant who worked on Rubio’s presidential bid, Christie is simply a « bully. »
“Bullying is what Christie does,” Roe said, putting him at odds with the Florida governor. « DeSantis has a brand and I think unlike the others it’s a brand that Republican voters know about. »
Lisa Kashinsky contributed to this report.