Allies of former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey have formed a super PAC to support him in the nascent Republican primary as he prepares for a likely campaign kickoff in the next two weeks, according to a group leader and others knowledgeable about the issue.
Christie’s candidacy is likely to focus in part on drawing a stark contrast to former President Donald Trump. Christie backed Trump in 2016 and worked with him during his presidency, but they split over claims Trump made on election night in 2020 that the race was stolen from him.
People close to Christie for years are leading the outside group, Tell It Like It Is, which is setting the stage for an imminent announcement, one of those briefed on the matter said. Brian Jones, an aide who advised Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008 and Mitt Romney’s in 2012, will lead the effort.
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William P. Palatucci, a longtime adviser to Christie and a member of the Republican National Committee, will serve as chairman. Another longtime Christie adviser, Russ Schriefer, will oversee messaging as senior adviser; and Brent Seaborn, a veteran data guru, will focus on voter targeting.
Maria Comella, an adviser who was also chief of staff to former Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Mike DuHaime, Christie’s top political strategist in 2016, are expected to lead a possible campaign if Christie announces as planned. Anthony Scaramucci, the hedge fund adviser who served less than two weeks as Trump’s White House communications director and became a vocal critic of Trump, said he would back Christie if he ran.
Christie “is ready to confront the hard truths that currently threaten the future of the Republican Party,” Jones said in a statement. “Now more than ever, we need leaders who have the courage to say not what we want to hear, but what we need to hear.”
Christie recently said he would run if he believed he could win, but he said there were organizational issues he needed to address. The existence of the super PAC and the ongoing announcement suggests that these issues have been resolved.
A Christie bid is seen as a long shot in a Republican Party that was remade in Trump’s image eight years after Christie first ran for president. Trump defeated him and Christie dropped out after coming sixth in New Hampshire, where he had staked his candidacy.
A central issue of this campaign will be to explain to voters its transformation. He endorsed Trump in 2016, helped him prepare for the debate and occasionally acted as an informal adviser during his presidency. Then, in the early hours of Nov. 4, 2020, Christie parted ways with him when he questioned Trump’s statement that there had been widespread fraud in the election.
“We haven’t heard anything today about evidence,” Christie said during an appearance on ABC News. “Things like this just ignite without informing. And we cannot allow inflammation without information.
Since then, Christie has become a full-throated critic of Trump, speaking as a former federal prosecutor about the former president’s legal woes and portraying him as a loser who can no longer command the crowds he once did. Christie’s candidacy is being watched by donors who either like what he says or see him as the best opportunity to hurt Trump, especially during a debate.
And like some other candidates, like former Vice President Mike Pence, Christie seems to be banking on the idea that there are enough remnants of the old Republican Party to call upon.
While New Hampshire is seen as a potentially favorable state where Christie could make inroads, her advisers are unlikely to tie her candidacy to a specific state. Instead, he is expected to try to grab as much media attention as possible with an unconventional campaign that will travel to the places where his message is most appealing.
He will enter the 2024 race as the person with the most cohesive case against Trump while saying the fight must be fought directly against the former president.
Christie hopes to assuage some of the grievances that have seeped into the roots of political discourse within the Republican Party since Trump became the party’s nominee in 2016. Christie is approaching the race, allies say, aiming to deliver a message of hope.
But Christie also repeatedly fired on Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, a distant second to Trump in most public polls, describing DeSantis’ fight with Disney in particular as overreach.
“Where are we going here now that if you express dissent in this country, the government is allowed to punish you? For me, that’s what I always thought the Liberals were doing. And now all of a sudden we’re in it with a Republican governor,” Christie said last month.
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