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How Christie's sudden departure from the NH primary could sway the GOP campaign

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie waves in front of a crowd of clapping people who are all in front of an American flag.
Charles Krupa
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie waves to guests during his introduction at a gathering, Tuesday, June 6, 2023, in Manchester, N.H.

Republican Chris Christie used a campaign stop in Windham Wednesday night to end his presidential campaign. The former New Jersey governor told the small crowd that he was leaving the race because he saw no path to victory and didn't want to enable the reelection of Donald Trump.

NHPR's Josh Rogers joined Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley to discuss Christie's announcement and what it means.


Rick Ganley: Christie's announcement, while rational, based on the apparent trajectory of this race, it did come suddenly yesterday.

Josh Rogers: It wasn't entirely expected. Christie had faced repeated questions about dropping out from voters and from the press, and his answer has tended to be, “I'll be staying in this race because no Republican is really running against Donald Trump.”

And the way this event went down last night in Windham suggested it wasn't overly planned. Before Christie took the stage, he was talking on a hot mic — among other things, you could hear him saying Nikki Haley would be getting “smoked” and that Ron DeSantis had called him, “petrified.” Christie could also be heard assessing what went wrong with his own campaign or, in his estimation, GOP voters this year.

“People don't want to hear it, Wayne. They don't want to hear it. We know we're right, but they don't want to hear it. And there's you know, we couldn't have been any clearer? We couldn't have been any more direct or worked any harder.”

Christie, by the way, was speaking with Wayne McDonald, who's chairman of his state campaign.

And again, he's talking on a hot mic meaning he didn't know he was on mic.


So what did Christie have to say when he knew the mic was on?

Well, basically that he saw no path to winning the Republican nomination, that his goal had always been to win and not simply be a voice speaking against Donald Trump and Trump-like forces in the GOP. And he also said he wanted to make sure he didn't end up doing anything that could help Donald Trump reclaim the White House.

“It's the right thing for me to do because I want to promise you this. I am going to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump ever be president of the United States again.”

What is the effect now, of Christie getting out of this race?

Well, that is really the question at this point. And it ought to be noted that Chris Christie did have some supporters in New Hampshire. He stood in third place consistently in most recent polls, with about 6 to 10% support. So those voters are presumably now up for grabs.

Where they might head isn't obvious. Some could flow to Nikki Haley, who's probably the closest Republican to Chris Christie in terms of policy, and who's been gaining ground in the polls, particularly here in New Hampshire. But, you know, it's not easy to know for some Christie supporters, real anti-Trump diehards — you could see some of them maybe even writing in Joe Biden, backing another Democrat, or maybe staying home.

And as Christie liked to point out, he had polls to suggest that about 20% of his support might actually flow to Donald Trump once he left the race, if he left the race. So, you know, it's hard to know. Voters obviously can be strange.

Josh, this can change things — it can narrow things in New Hampshire?

Well, it'll probably narrow things down, with the primary just 12 days away. Now, it will almost certainly put more votes for non-Trump candidates in play. It'll be up to Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and maybe the Democrats running to scoop those up if they can.

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Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Jackie Harris is the Morning Edition Producer at NHPR. She first joined NHPR in 2021 as the Morning Edition Fellow.

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