Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, lacing up for a possible presidential run in 2024, told “Axios on HBO” he won’t back down from a fight with former President Donald Trump, taunting his longtime friend for losing the last election.
- “I’ve never walked away from an argument, no matter who stood on the other side,” Christie told me during a wide-ranging interview in New Jersey.
Why it matters: This is the first hand-to-hand combat of the 2024 Republican presidential race.
- Many Republican candidates fear crossing Trump. But Christie — who said he still considers Trump a friend, despite their falling-out over the president’s behavior during the Jan. 6 riot — relishes political combat.
What’s happening: Christie got great press for remarks he made last weekend at the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, where he argued Republicans need to focus on future fights rather than rehashing the 2020 election.
- That got under Trump’s skin. He issued a harsh statement Monday saying Christie “was just absolutely massacred by his statements that Republicans have to move on from the past, meaning the 2020 Election Fraud.”
- “Everybody remembers,” Trump added, “that Chris left New Jersey with a less than 9% approval rating — a record low, and they didn’t want to hear this from him!”
Christie had a zinger ready when I sat down with him Tuesday.
- “I’m not gonna get into a back-and-forth with Donald Trump,” the former governor told me. “But what I will say is this: When I ran for reelection in 2013, I got 60% of the vote. When he ran for reelection, he lost to Joe Biden.”
- “I’m happy to have that comparison stand up, because that’s the one that really matters,” Christie added.
Christie said he’s made a conscious decision “that I want to spend my time combating the policies of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — and trying to help Republicans win governorships and the House and the Senate in 2022.”
- “This is not an argument that I’ll walk away from,” Christie added. “I think it’s much more productive to fight those policies than to fight with other Republicans.”
Fact check: Christie’s approval rating in the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll when he left the governorship in January 2018 was 19 percent.
- Mike Allen’s interview with former Chris Christie airs Sunday on “Axios on HBO,” at 6 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.