By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) – Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was overheard on Wednesday predicting that former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley would lose badly in her bid for the Republican presidential nomination, minutes before he ended his own quixotic 2024 campaign.
“She’s gonna get smoked, and you and I both know it,” Christie said during a private conversation that appeared to be inadvertently broadcast online, before being deleted, ahead of his town hall in Windham, New Hampshire. “She’s not up to this.”
Christie also said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the other main challenger to former President Donald Trump for the party’s nomination, had telephoned him “petrified,” at which point the microphone was cut off.
Neither the DeSantis campaign nor the Haley campaign immediately responded to a request for comment on Christie’s words, but DeSantis posted on X: “I agree with Christie that Nikki Haley is ‘going to get smoked.'”
In a statement released after Christie formally suspended his campaign, Haley called him a “friend” and commended him for a “hard-fought campaign.”
Trump has maintained a commanding lead in public polls despite facing four separate criminal indictments, just days before Iowa hosts the first statewide nominating contest on Monday.
Trump said on Truth Social, the social media platform he founded, that Christie had been caught on a hot mic “making a very truthful statement” about Haley.
Both Haley and DeSantis are battling to become the chief alternative to the former president, and the two will clash at a CNN debate in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday night.
Christie did not endorse a rival after dropping out on Wednesday. As he has done throughout the campaign, he faulted Haley, DeSantis and the other Republican candidates for refusing to take Trump on more directly.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Deepa Babington)