Nov 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Christie tells donors he still can beat Trump

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Chris Christie's presidential campaign sent a lengthy memo to donors on Friday, arguing that he has a path to the GOP nomination and signaling Christie will stay in the race through the Jan. 23 primary in New Hampshire — and potentially well afterward.

Why it matters: Despite pressure from some GOP leaders for lower-polling candidates like Christie to drop out, narrow the field and boost the chances of someone overtaking frontrunner Donald Trump, Christie argues that he's the most electable Republican in a one-on-one match-up with Trump.

  • The former New Jersey governor's appeal in the Granite State has made it difficult for any other non-Trump candidates to get within striking distance of Trump in the state — namely former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been rising in polls lately.

Driving the news: Christie's campaign touted a new CNN/UHN poll of likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire showing Christie in third place with 14% — behind Trump's 42% and Haley’s 20%, and ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 9%.

  • Christie was up 3 points since CNN's poll in September and Haley rose 8 points, as DeSantis and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy fell back into single digits.
  • In the memo, Christie senior adviser Maria Comella compared his effort to Sen. John McCain’s comeback campaign in 2008, noting that the late Arizona senator was “in a distant 3rd place in New Hampshire and would spend most of November and December in 4th place nationally.”
  • Christie is betting that New Hampshire — which allows independents to vote in the GOP primary — will allow him "to change the turnout model, and establish himself as the clear alternative" to Trump, Comella wrote.

Reality check: The poll also found that 47% of GOP primary voters in New Hampshire say they would "never" back Christie, a reflection of how his attacks on Trump have increased Christie's negative ratings.

  • Still, the campaign noted that this week's CNN poll was an improvement from one in September, when 60% of the likely primary voters said they'd never back Christie.
  • A Washington Post-Monmouth University poll released Friday found a similar dynamic in New Hampshire, with Trump polling at 46%, Haley at 18%, and Christie at 11% with 60% of New Hampshire GOP voters saying they'd be dissatisfied or upset if Christie won the nomination.
  • Christie's plan after New Hampshire is less clear. The campaign memo says that "independents still make up a significant portion of the primary electorate in South Carolina" and "there are several state primaries where independents can participate."

Between the lines: Much of Christie's memo argues that DeSantis and Haley can't win a head-to-head with Trump — making Christie the most viable option.

  • "With Trump the dominant candidate at this stage of the race, we are seeing what isn't working: Get to Trump's right, run as a Trump clone, ignore Trump, try to please everyone," Comella wrote.
  • "What case against Trump will Haley or DeSantis be able to make were the field to consolidate further, that they can't make now?"
  • The campaign cites a CBS poll from earlier this month that found Trump winning such match-ups with a consolidated field of either Haley or DeSantis against Trump.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Comella is a senior adviser to Christie, not a campaign spokesperson.

The Christie campaign's memo to donors:

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