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Christie Exits Presidential Race. Will That Benefit Haley or DeSantis?

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GOP presidential candidate and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces he is out of the race during a campaign event Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Windham, N.H. (AP/Robert F. Bukaty)
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WINDHAM, N.H. — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday suspended his Republican presidential bid just days before Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, ceding to growing pressure to drop out of the race from those desperate to deny Donald Trump a glide path to the nomination.

Addressing supporters at a New Hampshire town hall, Christie said he had concluded that he had no pathway to victory.

“Campaigns are run to win. That’s why we do them,” he said. “It’s clear to me tonight that there isn’t a path for me to win the nomination.”

“My goal has never been to be just a voice against the hate and division and the selfishness of what our party has become under Donald Trump,” he added, casting his decision as part of his effort to prevent Trump’s reelection.

“I am going to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump to ever be president of the United States again. And that’s more important than my own personal ambition,” he said.

In ‘Hot Mic’ Moment, Christie Says Haley Has No Chance

Christie did not immediately endorse any of rivals, whom he has criticized throughout the campaign for failing to directly target Trump for fear of alienating the front-runner’s loyal supporters. Underscoring his deep frustrations, he was overheard on a hot mic before the event began criticizing former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.

“She’s going to get smoked,” he said in an audio broadcast on the campaign’s livestream feed. “She’s not up to this.” He was also overheard saying Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had called him, petrified he was about to endorse Haley, but the audio was cut before he finished the thought.

Haley responded in a statement calling Christie “a friend for many years,” and commending him “on a hard-fought campaign.” DeSantis posted on X, formerly Twitter, that he agreed with Christie that Haley would “get smoked.”

Christie’s dropout comes as a surprise, given the former governor had staked his campaign on New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, which is less than two weeks away. He had insisted as recently as Tuesday night that he had no plans to leave the race, continuing to cast himself as the only candidate willing to tell the truth and directly take on the former president.

“I would be happy to get out of the way for someone who is actually running against Donald Trump,” Christie, a former Trump booster, said at a town hall in Rochester, New Hampshire, while arguing that none of his rivals had stepped up to the plate.

“I’m famous enough. … I’ve got plenty of titles. … The only reason to do this is to win,” he added. “So I’d be happy to get out of the way for somebody if they actually were going against Donald Trump.”

Haley Gains on Trump in New Hampshire Polling

But Christie faced a stark reality: While recent polls showed him reaching the double digits in New Hampshire, Haley shows signs of momentum. A CNN/UNH poll conducted in the state this week found Trump’s lead down to the single digits, with 4 in 10 likely Republican primary voters choosing Trump and about one-third now choosing Haley.

Allies of Haley, including New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and other anti-Trump Republicans, had been urging Christie to exit. They are hoping a large portion of his supporters will flock to Haley, who is seen as the most moderate candidate remaining, giving her a chance to turn the race into a two-candidate contest with Trump, the overwhelming favorite for the nomination.

The New Hampshire poll — which showed Christie at 12% — found about two-thirds of his supporters would select Haley as their second choice.

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