Trump critic Chris Christie drops out of Republican race

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) -Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ended his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday after failing to gain momentum for a campaign centered on fierce criticism of the policies and character of frontrunner Donald Trump.

Christie dropped out just days before the first Republican nominating contest in Iowa. He had the support of just 2% of Republicans in a nationwide Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday – the same level of support as former Representative Liz Cheney, who never declared herself a candidate.

Trump holds a big lead in the contest to be the party’s nominee against President Joe Biden in November’s election, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll. The poll put him at 49%, ahead of former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley at 12% and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 11%.

Christie, 61, told a town hall event in New Hampshire that he no longer saw a path forward for his campaign, and repeated warnings about what would happen if Trump were to win the presidential election.

“I am going to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump ever (to) be president of the United States again and that’s more important than my own personal ambition,” he said.

Christie’s base of support was greatly concentrated in New Hampshire, the northeastern U.S. state that holds the second Republican nominating contest on Jan. 23 after Iowa on Monday.

He had been under pressure from some anti-Trump groups to drop out and give Haley the best shot against Trump in New Hampshire, where voters tend to skew more moderate than in other early Republican nominating states.

Republican pollster Whit Ayres predicted almost all of Christie’s support in New Hampshire, which a RealClearPolitics poll aggregation put at around 12%, would likely gravitate to Haley.

“This leaves Trump as the odds-on favorite to win, but with Haley having a path to winning New Hampshire that is now a bit wider than it was when Chris Christie was in the race,” Ayres said.

Strategist Sarah Longwell, who holds regular focus groups with Republican voters, said she now gave Haley a slight edge against Trump in New Hampshire. But Trump’s odds of winning New Hampshire would likely go back up to around 60% should the other two main contenders – DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy – also drop out.

In what appeared to be a hot mic moment ahead of his announcement at the town hall event, Christie seemed to cast doubt on Haley’s chances.

“She’s going to get smoked. You and I both know this. She’s not up to this,” he said.

Trump and DeSantis both seized on Christie’s comments. Trump said he had made a “very truthful statement” about Haley while DeSantis posted on X that he agreed with Christie.

Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, did not directly address the moment in her response to Christie’s announcement, commending him for his campaign and adding: “Voters have a clear choice in this election: the chaos and drama of the past or a new generation of conservative leadership.”

Christie did not discuss with Haley his decision to suspend his campaign, a person briefed on Christie’s plans said ahead of the announcement.


Christie, a former Trump ally-turned-critic who sought to position himself as the only Republican contender willing to go toe-to-toe with the pugnacious former president, had been seen as a longshot for the party’s nomination.

Since launching his bid in June, Christie has been a staple on cable news shows offering withering critiques of Trump, calling him unfit for office and arguing that he was morally responsible for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

While the broadsides earned Christie a sliver of support among Republicans wanting to move in a new direction, Trump’s tight grip on the party’s most active members meant Christie never rose above low single digits in national polls.

His departure eliminates the most vocal Trump antagonist from the race, although Haley has grown increasingly critical of Trump in recent weeks.

Christie has repeatedly predicted that Trump would likely lose in the general election to Democratic President Joe Biden, given the four criminal cases hanging over the former president’s candidacy.

Christie ran for president in 2016 but ended his bid after a disappointing finish in the New Hampshire primary and became the first major party figure to back Trump.

He helped run Trump’s debate preparations in 2020 but disavowed the former president following his false claims that he won the 2020 election.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne, Jasper Ward, Tim Reid, Alexandra Ulmer and Joseph Ax; writing by Nathan Layne and Costas Pitas; Editing by Ross Colvin, Deepa Babington and Howard Goller)