Chris Christie Questions Nikki Haley’s Ability and Desire to Beat Donald Trump

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie speaks at a town hall campaign event at Mitchell Hill BBQ Grill and Brew, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in Rochester, N.H.

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday rejected the idea that ending his presidential bid would help Republican rival Nikki Haley defeat Donald Trump, questioning both her desire and ability to do so.

While other candidates were in Iowa ahead of next week’s caucus, Christie was in a barbecue restaurant in New Hampshire, where he has staked nearly his entire campaign. He warned that If Trump wins the New Hampshire primary for a third time on Jan. 23, he’ll become the GOP nominee, despite the next contest coming in Haley’s home state of South Carolina.

“If he wins here, don’t expect South Carolina to save us, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “So you all are the ones who are going to make the call here.”

While Trump remains the frontrunner, a CNN/UNH poll conducted in New Hampshire this week suggested that Haley, the former South Carolina governor and former United Nations ambassador, could be approaching Trump’s top spot in the state. About 4 in 10 likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire choose Trump, while about one-third pick Haley. The poll found Christie trailing behind both candidates at 12% and indicated that about two-thirds of Christie supporters would select Haley as their top alternative to Christie.

At Tuesday’s town hall event, Greg Leach, 49, of Dover, told Christie that he wants his vote to count, and asked him about the need to unify around one anti-Trump candidate.

“I would be happy to get out of the way for someone who is actually running against Donald Trump,” Christie answered.

Haley isn’t that someone, he argued, noting her support for pardoning Trump if any of his criminal trials end in conviction and her refusal to rule out becoming his running mate if asked.

“Why do we think she’d beat him? She’s not trying to beat him,” said Christie.

“Let’s say I dropped out of the race right now and I supported Nikki Haley. And then three months from now, four months from now, when you’re ready to go to the convention, she comes out as his vice president. What will I look like? What will all the people who supported her at my behest look like?”

Christie repeated that he will remain in the race as long as he sees a path to the nomination, and that he won’t make an endorsement based on politics like he did when he backed Trump eight years ago.

“I’m not going to make the same mistake again,” he said. “Can’t do it.”

Before the event began, Leach said he was leaning toward Christie but was considering Haley. Afterward, he said he was leaning toward Haley.

“I really want to vote for Christie but strategically, at this point I feel like Nikki Haley is the way to go,” said Leach.

Leach said he voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 general election and will do so again if it’s a Trump vs. Biden rematch, though he hopes it won’t come to that. He said he’s interested in seeing what happens in Iowa but wonders if Christie should drop out sooner rather than later.

“I don’t want it to be too late and have Trump end up winning because people waited too long,” he said.

A spokesperson for Haley’s PAC said Christie claims to talk tough but remains in “the same position today as he was the last time he ran for President.”

“It’s time for voters to tell Christie what we all know, which is that his campaign isn’t stopping anyone and frankly, it’s helping Trump, whom he proudly endorsed in 2016 and supposedly opposes in 2024,” said Brittany Yanick.