Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that Republicans need a candidate who can take out Donald Trump in a single, brutal swipe like the one Christie delivered to a different rival in 2016.
Speaking in New Hampshire, Christie recalled a favorite moment from his failed presidential campaign: embarrassing Marco Rubio on a debate stage three days before the first-in-the-nation primary. After Christie challenged Rubio’s lack of experience, the senator from Florida repeated himself twice in a cringe-worthy moment capped off by Christie saying: “There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”
Trump, he said, will never step aside quietly, said Christie, who is mulling another run himself.
“You better have somebody on that stage who can do to him what I did to Marco, because that's the only thing that's gonna defeat Donald Trump,” he said at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. “And that means you have to be fearless, because he will come back, and right at you.”
Voters need to think about who has the skills and guts to do that, Christie warned.
“Because it’s not going to end nicely, no matter what, his end will not be a calm and quiet conclusion,” he said.
While that debate moment was a high point for Christie, he dropped out less than a week later after finishing a dismal sixth in the New Hampshire Republican primary that year. He quickly endorsed Trump and was a close on-and-off adviser to Trump during his time in the White House, but broke with the former president after Trump refused to accept his loss of the 2020 election.
Christie has since emerged as one of the few prominent Trump critics in his party and has used his position as an ABC political analyst to argue that Trump is a far weaker today than he was in the past. On Monday, he accused Trump of leading Republicans down a “sinkhole of anger and retribution.”
“Donald Trump said a couple of weeks ago, ‘I am your retribution.’ Guess what everybody? No thanks. No dice,” Christie said Monday. “He doesn't want to be my retribution. That's baloney. The only person he cares about is him.”
Saul Shriber, 67, of Chester, said he voted for Christie in 2016 even though he wasn't happy with the answer he got when he asked Christie, “When are you going to take down Trump?”
“I have my timetable,” Christie said at the time.
“I thought, if there's anybody on the stage who could go after Trump, it would be him, the smash-mouth New Jersey guy,” Shriber.
Reminded of their encounter Monday, Christie said he and the other candidates made a “strategic error" in thinking they'd get a chance to take on Trump one-on-one. Instead, their campaigns folded quickly.
Shriber found that answer satisfactory and said he would support Christie again.
“If he chose to talk to me truthfully, I’m all in favor,” he said. “I’m willing to forgive.”
New Hampshire was the linchpin of Christie’s 2016 campaign. The then-governor camped out in the state for months, holding dozens of town halls — a format he became famous for in New Jersey, as his colorful commentary and spirited clashes with critics frequently went viral.
Christie said earlier this month that he expects to make a decision in the next 45 to 60 days.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.