Chris Christie Rejects No Labels, Accepts No Voters Want Him

Christie Drops Out of 2024 Presidential Race

Is it me, or is it you?
Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

When former New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced his 2024 presidential candidacy last June, the general reaction was bewilderment. He had, after all, run in 2016 and dropped out of the race after finishing ninth in Iowa and sixth in New Hampshire. He ended his two-term tenure in Trenton thoroughly loathed by his constituents. So irrational were his aspirations for the presidency that my colleague Gabriel Debenedetti suggested in a piece on “Chris Christie Syndrome” that the man seemed haunted by his failure to run in 2012:

The then–New Jersey governor turned down a big-money and high-powered draft effort to take on a seemingly vulnerable Barack Obama in 2012, and then fell flat in 2016 when his blunt brand was overtaken by a far louder GOP option.

Running against Trump again in 2024 had all the hallmarks of another attempted Christie do-over. But even more than his 2016 race, it represented comically poor timing. He chose to be the loudest-and-proudest anti-Trump candidate at the very moment the party emphatically gave its heart to Daddy. He began the campaign with the highest unfavorability ratings among Republicans (and, for that matter, the general public) in the field. His announced strategy of driving Trump weeping to his knees in candidate debates fell apart when the former president decided against participating in debates at all. He didn’t even bother to compete in Iowa and never rose beyond a distant third place in New Hampshire, far and away his best state and the place where he concentrated all his resources.

With much of the non-Trump portion of the GOP shrieking at him to get out of the race and give Nikki Haley a clean shot at the front-runner, Christie finally dropped out with few votes and no delegates, but on his way out the door he damaged Haley by commenting on a hot mic that she was “going to get smoked” by Trump.

Yes, during his short-lived 2024 campaign Christie had some good debate moments with uninhibited zingers at Trump, but they simply reinforced the reality that he was selling something voters weren’t buying.

Yet Christie 2024, bizarre as it may seem, didn’t end there. It has now come to light that the twice-humiliated Republican presidential candidate had an extended dalliance with the nonpartisan No Labels organization, which has been searching high and low for someone (preferably a Republican) to head up the “unity ticket” it has been planning to launch at some point this spring. Christie, who had once referred to the entire No Labels enterprise as a “fool’s errand,” apparently considered becoming its champion very seriously, as the Washington Post reports:

Christie and his team spent the last several weeks investigating the possibility of joining a No Labels bid, as leaders of No Labels amped up their courtship of him to become a candidate.

His team commissioned polling in 13 states about his bid, calculated a potential campaign budget and studied potential maps for winning the electoral college, eventually concluding that a third-party bid would need to win 20 to 25 states, according to a people involved, who like others for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

After all this period of sober appraisal, Christie decided, like a number of No Labels prospects before him, to give it a pass:

“I appreciate the encouragement I’ve gotten to pursue a third-party candidacy,” Christie said in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday. “While I believe this is a conversation that needs to be had with the American people, I also believe that if there is not a pathway to win and if my candidacy in any way, shape or form would help Donald Trump become president again, then it is not the way forward.”

This last remark had to come as a rude shock to the No Labels folks. They dismissed past warnings that they might inadvertently help Trump as Biden-campaign agitprop — but it seems the Republican agrees. But it appears that Christie took a long, hard look at the numbers and decided the whole thing might backfire.

Had he been this realistic all along, Christie probably would have never pursued his own “fool’s errand” of a 2024 presidential candidacy. At 61, he still has time for some sort of comeback in the public arena. But like a moth blinded by the most brilliant nearby light, Christie has wasted too much time flying toward an unattainable goal. Maybe he’s finally figured that out.

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