Chris Christie Suspends Presidential Campaign Days Before Iowa Caucus

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Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ended his struggling 2024 presidential campaign Wednesday evening, announcing at a town hall in New Hampshire that he had not gained the support he had hoped as the Republican candidate most critical of former President Donald Trump.

“It's clear to me tonight that there isn't a path for me to win the nomination,” Christie said. “It’s the right thing for me to do.”

Since entering the race last year, Christie centered his campaign on blocking Trump from becoming the Republican Party's nominee. He spent much of his time on the trail lambasting Trump as an egomaniac and a threat to democracy and national security, an approach that drew him few supporters in a party where the former President remains popular and is polling far ahead of his GOP rivals.

"I would rather lose by telling the truth than lie in order to win," Christie said.

His departure from the race is expected to bolster the campaign of former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Her backers had publicly urged Christie to drop out, believing it would benefit her campaign the most, as she and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vie for a second-place showing behind Trump in Monday's Iowa caucus.

A survey conducted in late September by WPA Intelligence and FairVote provides some support for that theory. A sample of Republican primary voters across the nation, with a special focus on the early states, were asked to rank their candidate preferences. Among those for whom Christie was their top pick, 40% said Haley was their second choice. Less than 5% said the same of DeSantis.

Christie has maintained that he alone among the Republican candidates was willing to tell voters "the truth" about Trump, and that rivals like Haley and DeSantis who were too focused on winning over Trump's supporters were unequipped to defeat him.

"Anyone who is unwilling to say he is unfit to be president of the United States is unfit to be President of the United States," Christie said.

Haley in particular has been diplomatic on the trail as she argues against Trump being the GOP nominee while also praising what the former President accomplished in office. It’s a strategy many of her supporters have said they find shrewd and appealing, though some have expressed frustration that she has not gone after him more forcefully.

“I would appreciate it if she were more outspoken against Trump,” Haley supporter Zachary Queensland told TIME at a rally in Clear Lake, Iowa in December. “That's one thing I admire about, let's say, Chris Christie. I appreciate his approach to Trump. That's my one reservation that I have with her.”

Many Republicans unhappy with the idea of Trump as the nominee found themselves seriously considering both Haley and Christie in recent weeks. Chris Arians, a Haley supporter at the rally in Clear Lake, said that he would not back Trump if he became the GOP nominee, and he considered DeSantis "a little too extreme."

"I like Nikki and I like Christie a lot right now,” said Arians, who described himself as libertarian.

Just before the announcement, Christie appeared to be caught on a hot mic on his campaign’s livestream discussing his Republican competitors in the presidential race. “She’s going to get smoked, and you and I both know it,” Christie said in the conversation, presumably referring to Haley. “She’s not up to this.”

Christie departure is likely to have the biggest impact in New Hampshire, where he had hoped to do well enough in the Jan. 23 primary to give him the momentum to continue on. Christie was polling in third place in New Hampshire, at 12%, according to 538's polling average, behind Trump at 42% and Haley at 30%. Christie had planned to effectively skip the Iowa Caucus, spending little of his fledgling campaign's time or resources in the state.

“Chris Christie has been a friend for many years," Haley said in a statement after Christie announced the end of his bid. "I commend him on a hard-fought campaign. Voters have a clear choice in this election: the chaos and drama of the past or a new generation of conservative leadership.”

DeSantis and Haley are scheduled to participate in a CNN debate in Iowa later Wednesday evening, as they vie for support in the critical state before the state's Republican caucus on Jan. 15.

This marks Christie's second attempt at securing the nation's highest office, following his 2016 bid where he suspended his campaign and endorsed Donald Trump. Christie played a pivotal role in Trump's transition team and served as an advisor during his term. Over term, he became one of Trump’s most vocal critics within the GOP, and has said he regrets endorsing him eight years earlier.

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