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Christie Kicks Off 2024 Pres. Bid      06/07 06:10

   

   MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wasted no 
time going after Donald Trump while launching his presidential campaign on 
Tuesday, calling the former president and current Republican primary 
front-runner a "lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog" and arguing 
that he's the only one who can stop him.

   Christie began his run with a town hall in New Hampshire. The former 
governor and federal prosecutor ran for president and lost to Trump in 2016 and 
went on to become a close off-and-on adviser before breaking with the former 
president over his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election.

   Now that Trump is trying again for the White House, Christie is out to do 
everything in his power to deny him. After criticizing other Republican primary 
rivals for being afraid to directly challenge Trump, Christie made clear that 
he had no such concerns.

   "The person I am talking about, who is obsessed with the mirror, who never 
admits a mistake, who never admits a fault, who always finds someone else and 
something else to blame for whatever goes wrong -- but finds every reason to 
take credit for anything that goes right -- is Donald Trump," he told a small, 
mostly friendly crowd at Saint Anselm College.

   "A lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog is not a leader," Christie 
said, saying Trump "made us smaller by dividing us even further and pitting us 
one against the other."

   But he also said President Joe Biden "is doing the same thing, just on the 
other side." He noted that he'd known Biden for decades and said the president 
is "out of his depth" because "he's not the guy he used to be," referencing the 
80-year-old Biden's advanced age.

   But Christie's chief target was Trump.

   "There's a big argument in our country right now about whether character 
matters, and we have leaders who have shown us over and over again that not 
only are they devoid of character, they don't care." Christie said. "We can't 
dismiss the question of character anymore, everybody. If we do, we get what we 
deserve, and we will have to own it."

   Christie enters a growing primary field that already includes Trump, Florida 
Gov. Ron DeSantis, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. 
Tim Scott of South Carolina. Former Vice President Mike Pence will be formally 
launching his own campaign in Iowa on Wednesday.

   During his time as governor, Christie established a reputation as a fighter 
with a knack for creating viral moments of confrontation. But he faces an 
uphill battle to the nomination in a party that remains closely aligned with 
the former president, despite Trump's reelection loss in 2020 and Republicans' 
poorer-than-expected showing in the 2022 midterm elections.

   Christie argues that unless top Republicans dare confront Trump, there will 
be a repeat of the 2016 GOP primary, when Trump rolled over a host of 
alternatives with more political experience who split the support of voters 
opposing him.

   Christie said Tuesday that the only way to win the GOP nomination was to 
topple Trump, but he was in the race to win the White House, not just the 
primary. He made fun of Trump's failed promise to wall off the entire southern 
U.S. border and have Mexico pay for it but said that voters who believed Trump 
in 2016 now knew better.

   Anti-Trump Republicans are particularly eager to see Christie spar with 
Trump on a debate stage -- if, of course, Trump agrees to participate in 
primary debates and Christie meets the stringent fundraising criteria set by 
the Republican National Committee for participation.

   JP Marzullo, a former state representative and former vice chairman of the 
New Hampshire Republican Party, previously backed Trump but is now supporting 
Christie.

   "I think he'll actually unite some of the voters, and he'll get to 
independents," Marzullo said of the former governor, adding, "I think it's time 
for a change."

   Christie's campaign will test the appetite among Republican voters for 
someone who has expressed support for many of Trump's policies but has 
criticized the former president's conduct. The former governor has rejected 
Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen and has urged the party to move 
on or risk future losses.

   Other Republicans with similar views, including former Maryland Gov. Larry 
Hogan and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, have opted against their own 
campaigns, expressing concerns that having more candidates in the race will 
only benefit Trump.

   Christie was at one point seen as one of the Republican Party's brightest 
political stars as the popular Republican governor of a Democratic state. But 
despite persistent urging from top donors and party officials, he declined to 
run for president in 2012. By the time he announced in 2016, his reputation had 
been tarnished by the "Bridgegate" scandal in which aides were accused of 
wreaking traffic havoc in Fort Lee, New Jersey, in an apparent effort to punish 
the city's mayor for failing to endorse his reelection bid.

   In the packed 2016 GOP primary, Christie portrayed himself as a brash, 
tough-talking East Coaster who could "tell it like it is" -- only to be 
eclipsed by the brasher Trump.

   Christie opting to start his 2024 bid at a New Hampshire town hall recalled 
his first run at the White House, when he focused on the state, holding dozens 
of New Hampshire town hall events only to finish sixth in its primary. He 
dropped out of that race afterward.

   Two weeks later, Christie stunned even some former aides when he endorsed 
Trump, becoming the first sitting governor and former rival to get behind the 
emerging GOP front-runner. His announcement undercut rival Marco Rubio at a 
crucial moment -- the day after a debate that had been seen as a possible 
turning point in the race -- helping to pave the way for Trump's nomination and 
eventual win.

   "The line of supporting Donald Trump starts behind me," Christie has said.

   The former governor, who has known Trump for nearly 20 years, has had a 
complicated friendship with the former developer and reality TV star. At times, 
he was one of Trump's closest advisers: He was on the shortlist to serve as 
Trump's vice president, oversaw Trump's early White House transition efforts, 
said he was offered -- and turned down -- multiple Cabinet positions, and 
helped Trump prepare for each of his general election debates in 2016 and 2020. 
(It was during those debate preparations that Christie believes he caught 
COVID-19, landing him in intensive care.)

   But Christie also clashed with Trump at times and has described the former 
president's refusal to accept his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden as a 
breaking point. In appearances and interviews, Christie says he was "incredibly 
disappointed and disillusioned" by Trump's refusal to concede, which culminated 
in his followers' violent storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an effort to 
halt the certification of Biden's win.

 
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