Chris Christie is set to announce his presidential bid in New Hampshire
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Another Republican launches a presidential bid today. During a visit to New Hampshire, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is expected to say he's making another run for the GOP nomination. Christie, if you remember, was one of the more than a dozen Republican hopefuls in 2016 who fell by the wayside as Donald Trump stormed through the nomination process and eventually won the election. Christie did a brief stint leading Trump's transition team. But in the years since, he has become a vocal critic. We wanted to hear more about what's behind this latest move, so we called WNYC's Matt Katz, who's covered Christie for years. Good morning, Matt.
MATT KATZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.
MARTIN: So why is he running again?
KATZ: You know, why not, really? If you've got a couple of billionaires to support you, and we think Christie does, it makes good professional sense to run for president. You can end up with a consolation prize, like vice president, increase your name ID to get more money for those speaking gigs. Christie himself has said that, A, it's better to be relevant than ignored. And, B, once you run once, as Christie has, as you said, and you get the sense that you can be sitting in the Oval Office, it's really hard to shake that. So Christie did terribly last time he ran but still ended up with a paid pundit gig on ABC News and lucrative contracts as a lobbyist. He represented hospitals looking for COVID funds and the Puerto Rican fiscal agency, for example. And that's all because of his ties to the Trump administration and his notoriety due at least in part to having run before.
MARTIN: Well, you know, a recent poll shows Christie has the lowest favorability ratings of any candidate among Republican voters. So I'm wondering if he has any real path for him to win? Or is this really just about one of those consolation prizes?
KATZ: Yeah, I mean, he is very unpopular. It could be because of the scandals back in New Jersey. Although, I think it might have something more to do with Christie having bro hugged and said nice things about President Obama after Obama had visited the Jersey Shore right before the 2012 election. Republican voters may remember that. There's also a viral picture from Christie's last year in office sunbathing at the governor's beach house while other state beaches were closed due to a budget stalemate between him and the legislature, so deeply unpopular. But he's an extraordinarily effective communicator.
Even though he did terribly in New Hampshire last time around, he's still filled town hall meetings because he's entertaining, he's sharp, he's quick-witted. And maybe more than anybody else on that potential debate stage, he's going to be able to stick it to Trump and maybe Florida Governor DeSantis in a way that will become viral and remembered and maybe effective in voters' minds.
MARTIN: Well, let's talk about that side of his verbal technique, as it were. He's argued that he can go toe to toe with Trump and DeSantis. And he does seem devoted to slamming former President Trump in recent speeches. Could you tell us a little bit more about what's that about? Like, why did the relationship take that turn? And is this such a - it's like a fundamental part of his identity now.
KATZ: Yeah. This is something that certainly will be scrutinized because he was the first establishment Republican to endorse Trump. He's partially responsible for putting Trump into the White House. But their relationship has taken so many ups and downs. Trump want - Christie wanted to be Trump's running mate. He wanted to be VP, he didn't get that. He wanted to be attorney general, he didn't get that. He was named Trump's transition chairman when Trump got the nomination, but Trump fired him from that job, threw his plan in the garbage. But still, Christie stuck around.
He was an informal adviser to Trump throughout the White House years. And he helped prepare him for the 2020 debates against Joe Biden. And he ended up getting COVID from Trump during that debate prep. Then January 6 happened, and that's what Christie said was basically the tipping point. And that's why he thinks Trump should not be president again. But, you know, when that change happened, was it because Trump was on the descent, or was - and Christie wanted to get in the White House? Or did Christie really have a moral reckoning? That's something that certainly will be scrutinized by the press and voters as he tries to make this run.
MARTIN: So before we let you go, aside from challenging the former president, what will he say he has to offer to GOP voters?
KATZ: He has to offer an alternative. And I think he's going to present himself as the guy who sounds like a pre-Trump Republican. So you're going to hear, you know, some hawkish foreign policy. You're going to hear fiscal conservatism. He's pro-life, sort of those pre-Trump, traditional Republican talking points. And you're not going to hear him really lean into the culture wars that Trump or DeSantis would do.
MARTIN: That is Matt Katz. He's with WNYC. And he's the author of "American Governor: Chris Christie's Bridge To Redemption." Matt Katz, thank you so much.
KATZ: Thanks so much, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.