Chris Christie Is (Probably) Right About Trump and the Debates

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Chris Christie was a red meat thrower until he wasn’t.

The change was pretty noticeable. He was a hard-red Republican governor, not afraid to shut people down if they came at him the wrong way, and had high-profile fights against unions and other progressive groups. When he ran for President in 2016, he was the same way until he bowed out.

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Immediately, he was seen as an errand boy for Donald Trump and mocked heavily for it. In time, Chris faded away a bit until he landed a gig as a contributor for ABC News. It was from there that he started firing back against Trump.

Lost in all the post-2016 narratives is the fact that Christie was rumored to be angling for Attorney General, and that’s why he hitched his wagon to Trump. The problem was the fact that Christie had prosecuted Jared Kushner’s father, Charles, in a case involving tax evasion, illegal campaign donations, and witness tampering. Christie has never apologized for that, and apparently, the younger Kushner’s influence in the Trump family kept Christie from obtaining any sort of position in the administration.

So the story goes, anyway.

Christie announced his candidacy in 2023 with one promise – that he was the guy to take down Trump. And, while Christie has taken curious positions (like siding with the folks who are okay with doctors mutilating children), there are some weapons in his arsenal he can bring to the table. His ability to debate is one of those, and despite claims to the contrary, Christie believes Trump will be one of the candidates on the debate stage.

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The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd interviewed Christie, former governor of New Jersey, for an opinion piece published Saturday. When asked whether he believed Trump would attend the GOP debates after previously saying he may not, Christie affirmed that the former president most likely will.

“I think that he’ll show up at the debates because his ego won’t permit him not to,” Christie said. “He can’t have a big TV show that he’s not on.”

“He’s on Truth Social going bonkers, and no one’s paying attention? He won’t deal well with that,” the former governor added.

The former governor of New Jersey has a point. Trump is using his Truth Social platform to express his (unfettered) thoughts on the other candidates in the race, and he definitely uses it to push back on anyone who criticizes him. He absolutely can’t stand to not be in the fray, and it’s quite possible that Trump’s ego won’t let him skip a debate.

He was attacking Ron DeSantis before DeSantis was even in the race. He’s felt extremely defensive about any accusation his support cost GOP candidates their races in 2020. He maintains he never lost 2020 even when few people at this point are even asking.

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But there is something else out there that is missing from the conversation. Something that no one really seems to be addressing yet – Trump appears to be running a basement campaign.

By the numbers: Since announcing his campaign on Nov. 15 last year, Trump has held fewer than 30 in-person campaign events, according to an Axios review.

  • Trump was the first to enter the race last November, but has only held four events in Iowa, five in New Hampshire, two in South Carolina, and zero in the state of Nevada.
  • Since February when Trump’s rivals began entering the race through June 29, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held 55 events, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley held 59, Sen. Tim Scott held 36, and Vivek Ramaswamy held 102.

The reason he’s not holding rallies, his campaign says, is the price tag. “First of all, rallies are half a million bucks a pop,” Chris LaCivita, a senior Trump campaign aide, said on the Ruthless podcast recently.

And part of that concern over price could be attributed to the need for cash reserves to continue fighting multiple indictments, including future ones) aimed at the former president. Part of the reason he’s not doing the events may be his campaign’s attempt to avoid him saying things that might hurt his defense, as may have happened in the Bret Baier interview he recently took part in.

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To be fair to Trump, sure, there’s no reason to get out there and risk saying or doing something that will get you in hot water with anyone – the law, voters, etc. – when you are averaging more than 30 points ahead. You can even avoid the debates and probably come out remaining on top. But, you are sacrificing some of that intimate contact between the candidate and the voters.

I am left to wonder if Trump can afford that sacrifice. For now, sure. But six months from now? A lot can change between now and then.

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