Christie calls out Trump, DeSantis in first NH exploratory stop
Mar. 27—MANCHESTER — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential Republican presidential contender in 2024, fired at the two GOP frontrunners, former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, during a New Hampshire appearance Monday night.
Christie, 60, said Trump disqualified his right to be president again when on Election Night 2020 Trump charged that the election was stolen with "not one fact to back it up."
"When you put yourself ahead of the democracy as president of the United States, it is over," Christie said during a town hall-style forum at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on the campus of Saint Anselm College.
"We are the party of me (Trump) right now; it's about him and nothing else. You can't win as the party of me and you probably shouldn't. You have to win as the party of us."
Christie finished sixth in the 2016 presidential primary here before he dropped out, endorsed Trump and kept backing him through his reelection bid in 2020.
Christie mocked that DeSantis had described the Russian war in Ukraine as a "territorial dispute."
"When you roll tanks and artillery into a free country in an attempt to take their land and their country by force, that is authoritarian aggression, that is not a territorial dispute," Christie said.
And Christie panned DeSantis for saying he didn't want to fight a proxy war with China.
"Someone, please place a wakeup call to Tallahassee. Hasn't he seen what is going on?" Christie asked rhetorically.
"It is naïve to say that we want to avoid a proxy war with China. We are in one and now the question is who is going to win."
Christie noted that in 2014, then-Congressman DeSantis lashed out at the Obama administration for not doing enough to oppose the Russian annexation of Crimea.
"Why is that different now than in 2014? You know why? The polls are different," Christie said.
"Beware of politics who read polls to follow them; I read polls to change them."
Christie said the leaders in both political parties and the media "trade in anger" that blocked the country making progress.
"I think what we have seen now over the last eight years is that anger has not resulted in one problem getting solved," Christie said.
Close border to fight opioid crisis
As governor, Christie pursued state policies in New Jersey to fight against opioid addiction and chaired a commission under Trump that led to some congressional reforms.
Christie said the solution lies in closing the border to illegal drug trafficking and doing more to support treatment for opioid addiction.
Christie called on the U.S. to threaten Mexico with a loss of economic aid unless they do enough to block the importation of deadly drugs.
"If they don't then we need to back away from the economic relationship," Christie said.
"It is not their people who are dying, it is ours."
Christie said his greatest moment in 2016 was debating Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. in the days just before the primary. He said it will take a similar offensive to beat Trump.
"Donald Trump is not going to go away by himself. He's not going to pack up his bags and you know say, 'I have just decided against this,' " Christie said.
A short time later, he added, "You had better have somebody on that stage who can do to him what I did to Marco."
Christie said New Hampshire should retain its first-in-the-nation status and if he runs, he will repeat his 2016 campaign that included 100 town hall forums.
"I just hope if I do it, I do better next time," Christie quipped.
Matt Mowers, a two-time congressional candidate and Christie for President 2016 staffer, helped organize the event that pulled in other past Christie backers.
Former Senate President Peter Bragdon of Milford said he is glad Christie is considering a run.
"I like the fact he is plain spoken and tells it like it is," Bragdon said.
In 2016, Jim Merrill managed Rubio's presidential run in New Hampshire and said many prominent Republicans should be considering their own campaigns.
"I've told anyone who has asked that this one could be much more wide open than you might think so you should take it a look," Merrill said.
GOP strategist Tom Rath said he looked forward to seeing Christie speak.
"I'm trying to go as many of these as I can because we have to send the message that New Hampshire voters are really engaged," Rath said.
Other prominent Republicans who attended the event included House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry; State Party Chairman Chris Ager, Republican National Committeewoman Juliana Bergeron and former state GOP Vice Chairman Wayne MacDonald.