Chris Christie skewers Haley and DeSantis on hot mic before ending 2024 campaign | CNN


Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Wednesday that he was ending his campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, marking the exit of the most outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump in the Republican primary.

But first, Christie made a few unofficial remarks — off camera on a live microphone — skewering his now former GOP rivals.

“She’s gonna get smoked and you and I both know it. She’s not up to this,” Christie could be heard saying in apparent reference to Haley.

He also mentioned that DeSantis had contacted him.

“DeSantis called me, petrified that I would…,” Christie said before the audio cut out. New Hampshire campaign chair Wayne MacDonald confirmed to CNN that he was on the other end of the conversation.

Later Wednesday after the CNN debate, when asked if he was petrified about something, DeSantis said, “No, look, I’ve been to Fallujah and Ramadi. I mean, this is nothing.”

“I did call him just because I felt he was being treated poorly with all these people saying like, you know, you should go,” DeSantis added. “I said you have every right to do this.”

Christie wasn’t kind in his assessment of his opponents.

“Anyone who is unwilling to say (Trump) is unfit to be president of the United States,” Christie said, “is unfit themselves to be president of the United States.”

Christie’s departure comes on the heels of a new batch of disappointing poll numbers, especially in New Hampshire, where he hoped a less conservative electorate would coalesce around his sharp opposition to Trump, whom he described as “devoid of character.”

But, as he told supporters in New Hampshire, the initial plan had not come together.

“It is clear to me tonight that there isn’t a path for me to win the nomination, which is why I’m suspending my campaign tonight for President of the United States,” he said at the Windham town hall, just 13 days before the first-in-the-nation primary. He called it the “right thing for me to do” and promised that he would never “enable Donald Trump to become, to ever be president of the United States again.”

Haley is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of Christie’s exit. She has pulled to within single digits of Trump in the Granite State, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire. The survey found that 65% of Christie supporters – 12% of the total – listed Haley as their second choice. She trailed Trump 39% to 32% among likely primary voters.

Whether Christie himself will do the same and encourage his backers to follow suit is an open question. He has no immediate plans to endorse another candidate, according to a Republican source. He slammed Haley repeatedly during the latter part of his campaign, even before his hot mic moment, and suggested she was running to be Trump’s vice president with an eye on a promotion in 2028.

Despite ending his presidential campaign, his name will remain on the ballot in New Hampshire, where the primary will take place on January 23.

In his remarks Wednesday, Christie took several thinly veiled shots at the other Trump rivals.

“Anyone who is unwilling to say (Trump) is unfit to be president of the United States,” Christie said, “is unfit themselves to be president of the United States.”

Prior to taking the stage at the event, Christie was caught talking about his opponents on a hot mic in audio obtained by The Recount. The audio captured only part of Christie’s comments before being cut off.

“You know, and she’s gonna get smoked and you and I both know it. She’s not up to this,” Christie said in an apparent reference to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Christie also can be heard on the audio saying that DeSantis called him.

“DeSantis called me, petrified that I would,” Christie says before the audio appeared to cut out.

The Christie campaign declined to comment. CNN has reached out to the DeSantis and Haley campaigns for comment.

In his remarks Wednesday, Christie took several thinly veiled shots at the other Trump rivals.Pressed by a voter on Tuesday about the urgency of anti-Trump Republicans to unite around a single opponent, Christie again questioned Haley’s intentions – and expressed anxiety over how endorsing her might reflect on him.

“Let’s say I dropped out of the race right now and I supported Nikki Haley. And then three months from now, four months from now, when you’re ready to go to the convention, she comes out as his vice president. What will I look like? What will all the people who supported her at my behest look like?” he said.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Republican presidential candidate former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces he is dropping out of the race during a town hall campaign event on Wednesday, January 10, 2024.

After vehemently denying Tuesday that he was considering dropping out, Christie earlier Wednesday appeared to give a hint of what would come hours later.

“I beseech you, I beg you to vote based on character. All the rest of the things can change. Character doesn’t change,” he told voters in Exeter, New Hampshire. “Frankly, doesn’t mean you have to vote for me. You might decide that there’s another person in this race of good character that you prefer.”

Christie launched his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination at a June 2023 town hall in New Hampshire, which he used to deliver a searing indictment of Trump, calling his one-time friend and close political ally a “lonely, self-consumed mirror hog” whose potential election to a second term as president represents an existential threat to American democracy.

“Beware of the leader in this country, who you have handed leadership to, who has never made a mistake, who has never done anything wrong,” Christie said. “Who when something goes wrong it’s always someone else’s fault. And who has never lost.”

His message in smaller, more conservative rooms was less colorful and more utilitarian. Trump, he said over and over again, was a radioactive general election candidate who would be defeated – and take down the rest of the GOP ticket with him.

“We keep losing and losing and losing,” Christie said at a Republican Jewish Coalition conference in 2022, just weeks after the midterm elections proved underwhelming for the GOP. “The reason we’re losing is because Donald Trump has put himself before everybody else.”

Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

Chris Christie speaks in McLean, Virginia, in 2015. The former New Jersey governor has suspended his presidential campaign.

From Chris Christie/Instagram

Christie, right, stands with his brother, Todd, in this old photo he posted to Instagram in 2015. Christie was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1962. His family later moved to Livingston, New Jersey, where he attended high school before enrolling at the University of Delaware.

From Chris Christie/Instagram

From Chris Christie/Instagram

Christie met his wife, Mary Pat, at the University of Delaware. Christie posted this picture of them together in 2015, 30 years after it was taken. The two were married in 1986, and they have four children.

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While serving as the US attorney for New Jersey from 2002-2008, Christie prosecuted more than 130 public officials for corruption. Here, he speaks to the media about an FBI sting in August 2003.

Mel Evans/AP

Christie has makeup applied before a gubernatorial debate with Chris Daggett, center, and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine in October 2009.

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Christie greets supporters in Parsippany, New Jersey, after he defeated Corzine in November 2009. He won by nearly four percentage points.

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Christie is flanked by his wife and their children as they attend the dedication of Empty Sky, a 9/11 memorial in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 2011.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Christie, center, touches the Western Wall in Jerusalem in April 2012. He was on his first official overseas trip as governor.

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Christie takes the stage to deliver the keynote address on the first night of the Republican National Convention in August 2012. During his speech, Christie argued that the American people should focus on ideas rather than rhetoric. He also outlined differences between Republicans and Democrats on governing philosophy while highlighting his bipartisan achievements, such as balancing the state’s budget and reforming the pension and health benefit system.

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Christie talks to Mitt Romney aboard Romney’s campaign bus in October 2012. He was among those vetted to be Romney’s running mate, but Romney ultimately went with US Rep. Paul Ryan.

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Christie updates the public about damage and recovery efforts related to Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

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Christie greets President Barack Obama, who arrived in New Jersey to visit areas hit by Hurricane Sandy. The two toured devastated beach towns together. “I think the people of New Jersey recognize that (Christie) has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before. I want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership,” Obama said.

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Christie walks with Britain’s Prince Harry on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, in May 2013. Harry was on a weeklong US tour.

Mel Evans/AP

Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker share a laugh during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Newark charter schools in September 2013.

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Christie, with his wife, Mary Pat, waves to supporters after winning a second term as governor in November 2013. He defeated his Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, by more than 20 percentage points.

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Christie enters the borough hall in Fort Lee, New Jersey, to apologize to Mayor Mark Sokolich in January 2014. Lane closures had snarled traffic for days at the George Washington Bridge, which connects Manhattan to Fort Lee. It was alleged that Christie’s deputy chief of staff signaled for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority to close the lanes to punish Sokolich for not endorsing Christie during the election. Christie said he had no knowledge of any plot to close the lanes. He was never charged in the “Bridgegate” scandal, but two former officials linked to his office, including the deputy chief of staff, were convicted in 2017 of using their power to close the lanes as an act of political revenge. In 2020, the US Supreme Court threw out the fraud convictions.

Matt Rourke/AP

Demonstrators stand with the word “Bridgegate” spelled out on their shirts as Christie holds a town hall-style meeting in Flemington, New Jersey, in March 2014.

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

At a March 2014 news conference, Christie speaks to the press about the Fort Lee lane closures. Christie said the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had resigned, a day after an internal investigation cleared Christie in the scandal.

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