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Awaiting Christie Announcement On Suspending Campaign; Chris Christie Suspends His Presidential Campaign. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 10, 2024 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JONAH GOLDBERG, CO-FOUNDER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DISPATCH: And according to the CNN poll that would conceivably if she gets all of them that would put her in front of Donald Trump.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It was interesting. We had Governor Sununu on in New Hampshire yesterday who said that there were people on his leadership team. Christie saying, drop out, you should drop out. Christie responded to that today saying he was a liar. Now we're expecting this announcement according to a CNN source that he is going to be dropping out indeed.
All right, thank you both. And much more on this breaking news right now with Wolf Blitzer in the "Situation Room."
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, there's major breaking news out there on the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The source now tells CNN that Chris Christie is dropping out of the race. We're standing by to hear directly from him live this hour in New Hampshire. We're going to bring that to you as soon as it begins. And all this comes as the final Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses. And now just a few hours away right here on CNN, Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis preparing to face off tonight as both candidates make their closing pitch to try to narrow the gap with Donald Trump.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the Situation Room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And let's get straight to the breaking news in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Windham, New Hampshire for us right now. He's got details on the major developments that are unfolding. So exactly, Omar, what are we expecting to hear directly from Chris Christie in the coming minutes?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, as we understand, according to a source familiar, we are expecting Chris Christie to suspend his campaign for president here at this event in Windham, New Hampshire, it's set to get going in just a few minutes here. It comes less than 24 hours after really he called someone like Governor Sununu a liar for suggesting that there have been conversations about him getting out of the race. That was just last night and even sources on his campaign pushed back on that assertion. Well, less than 24 hours later, here we are at this precipice where a source familiar is telling CNN that he does plan to suspend his campaign. He had put in a lot of resources here in New Hampshire appearing at events essentially weekly, since the beginning of September, is also where he launched his campaign back in early June as well.
And he had told reporters in recent weeks, that for him, the goal was to finish second or at the very least a strong third for him to continue staying in this particular race. We're not sure what changed between that calculus and where we are right now, but that's obviously going to be a top of the list for us to ask him if we do get the opportunity. Not to mention just a few weeks ago, I sat down with him to -- in December, to talk about his future prospects in this race. And he point blank told me, I'm not going anywhere in this. And his quote was to me that on January 23, which is primary day here in New Hampshire, you're going to see me in line shaking hands with folks until the polls close. And that in his mind, he was going to do very well in New Hampshire.
And even at that point, he told me he doesn't care about what the polls say. the only poll that he cares about is what actually happens at the ballot box. So, what changed that calculus? That is something we're going to have to try and see. Obviously, we had CNN poll that released yesterday showing an increased gap between him and Donald Trump, and especially a closing gap between Nikki Haley and Donald Trump. So whether that went into his decision, right, we will just have to see. But again, the major breaking news that in just a few minutes, we expect Chris Christie to announce that he is suspending his campaign for president.
BLITZER: Any word, Omar, on -- if he will make an announcement as to who he will now endorse for the Republican presidential nomination?
JIMENEZ: That's a major question at this point. We know it's not going to be Trump. But I think the question comes down to whether it's between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. At this point, it's not clear who he will go forward with, but we're waiting on that announcement to at least get that first step going. And he will likely take some time to decide who he wants to go forward with.
But obviously, time is of the essence. Iowa caucuses are coming up early next week and then you have New Hampshire the week after that. And so, for whoever he endorses to take advantage of any potential momentum he gives with an endorsement, obviously, that would be a decision that has to happen quickly. This is going to happen in a town hall format where it's a format he's really thrived in and been comfortable in over the course of his campaign. It's how he announced his campaign and again, in just a few minutes and six to be the way he ends his campaign.
And he'll likely take some questions from some of the folks in the audience. And we'll see how that dynamic goes and whether he explains some of the calculus that got him to this decision. And whether he explains what he plans to do in the immediate future. BLITZER: And we're going to take his opening remarks live and hear directly from Chris Christie, and see what he says. All right, Omar, standby, we'll get back to you.
I want to bring in our political team now for some major analysis. This is big news. Very big news, indeed.
David Chalian, you're political director, what's your assessment of this some major announcement coming from Chris Christie?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, it's a significant development in this race. Obviously, the field is narrowing here just on the eve of voters beginning to weigh in. And having Christie who of course, has been the most vociferous Trump opponent inside the Republican field depart from the stage, it kind of tells the story of where the Republican Party is right now. Now, according to sources, Wolf, that I've spoken with, he is expected to say that he's done the calculation here and simply doesn't see a path to winning the nomination. And that is why he came to this conclusion to suspend his campaign that he knows it's the right thing for him to do, and that he is still going to stay committed to the rationale that got him into this race, which is being opposed to Donald Trump and his dominance inside the Republican Party, to try to coax the Republican Party to move on from Donald Trump.
And he is likely to talk about how for him personally, he is going to make sure that he is never in a position again, to enable Donald Trump's continued dominance in the Republican Party. So, that's what we expect to hear from him. There's no doubt it is a major decision, especially as it relates to New Hampshire because that's where Chris Christie has been a factor in this race. And that is where Nikki Haley is trying to stage her most significant battle against Donald Trump in these early states.
And we just saw on our poll this week, 65 percent of Christie supporters said Nikki Haley is their second choice. So this is a natural home now for Nikki Haley to try and scoop up some of the folks who have been with Chris Christie, and hopefully, for her sake, narrow that gap with Donald Trump, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it would be a major development for her if in fact that that happens. Our Jeff Zeleny is with us as well. David, standby.
Jeff Zeleny, give us your analysis. You've been doing a lot of reporting on this as well.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is no question that this is a major milestone in this campaign. But first a bit of reporting, I am told by a Republican source familiar with the governor's plans that he does intend to offer a rationale for what he believes the Republican Party should do going forward to win back the White House and restore the Republican Party. I'm told he has no plans to immediately offer an endorsement. Not a surprise at all, of course, but that is what I'm told will be happening in New Hampshire.
But Wolf, when you take a step back before a single vote has been cast in this 2024 presidential race, the field has shifted and changed dramatically. Now with Chris Christie bowing out, we've seen Mike Pence bowing out. Those, of course, are two candidates, two long standing Republicans in this party, who were urging voters to turn away from Donald Trump, and their candidacy simply did not take off.
So one thing that is dramatically different here as we enter the voting now just five days away here in Iowa, is that the Republican field is dramatically smaller and narrower than it was in 2016. That, of course, allowed Donald Trump to essentially split the party and the vote and get the nomination. Now, the same thing could happen here, of course, he is still splitting it with Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and to an extent of a Vivek Ramaswamy. But it is a dramatic moment in the campaign that there simply is not a large market share for this anti Trump message, if you will. So, this likely does not have an effect on the Iowa caucuses, which is the immediate concern as we watched the debate tonight with Ron DeSantis, and Nikki Haley.
But it could have a dramatic impact on the New Hampshire primary, which is in just under two weeks. Two weeks from now we'll know the winner of the New Hampshire primary. So look for a lot of his supporters, his voters, as we've talked to them over the weeks and months in New Hampshire. Nikki Haley is likely to be a second choice. But a big turning point here was that endorsement from the very popular New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu late last year to endorse Nikki Haley. That essentially was the death knell for the Christie candidacy.
He knew that, he thought he would fight forward and try to find his way. But clearly, he believed that trying to defeat Donald Trump and changing the Republican Party is bigger than his candidacy at this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, significant development indeed. Jeff, standby. I want to bring in S.E. Cupp as well, our political commentator.
Jeff just said S.E., Christie is not necessarily expected to immediately endorse Nikki Haley or anyone else for that matter. So are you surprised by these developments?
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, and really, this is sort of a tacit and direct endorsement of Nikki Haley, it's not an official one. But there's no other reason to do it before New Hampshire if you're not trying to do her a favor, and the field of favor. Now, that doesn't mean he's, you know, maybe psyched about Nikki Haley. But this definitely benefits her and really her alone. And so in a way, this is a huge, huge win for her at a time, you know, five days before Iowa, and then another week before New Hampshire at a time where she could really build some momentum.
I think it's also a sign of Chris Sununu's influence and power. We heard yesterday Chris Christie kind of deny that Sununu and he had talked about him dropping out, but Sununu had been calling for Chris Christie to drop out for some time. Obviously, we know he endorsed Nikki Haley some time ago. But I think he's become a very important voice in this GOP primary. And I think that probably weighed into some of the decision making as well.
Now listen, Chris Christie, probably was never going to win the nomination. But he was and can continue to be an important voice of opposition to maybe go where some of the other candidates haven't been willing to go. And whoever gets his endorsement will inherit that as well, will inherit his bombast and his really courage in going after Trump where a lot of the other candidates have not.
BLITZER: And I've seen some polls in New Hampshire, which clearly show that among Chris Christie supporters, Nikki Haley is their second choice. So presumably, this could very much help Nikki Haley in this contest. Van Jones is with us.
And Van, I'm anxious to get your thoughts. Christie clearly has aimed to damage Donald Trump as much as he possibly could in this race. Do you think he was able to accomplish that?
VAN JONES, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it doesn't look like it. If you look at Trump's numbers versus his numbers, this was a kamikaze mission. And kamikaze pilots don't tend to survive. There was a thesis here that somebody had take on Donald Trump frontally. And people kept saying, the pundit class, how can you defeat Donald Trump if you don't take him on frontally?
Some of the candidates said, how can you defeat him if you do take him on frontally? And they refused to do so. But Chris Christie was willing to test that premise, test that thesis, that somebody had to take him on. And he did it at his own personal peril, in that it would have been easy to tap to do what other people did. He is proving himself to be a mission first conservative.
When he thought his voice could make a difference, he raised it loud. And now he thinks he's in the way of someone who might be able to stop him and Nikki Haley, and he's willing to step back. We want to talk about somebody who was showing principal, who was showing courage, Chris Christie fits that bill. But kamikaze missions are dangerous, and the pilots don't survive. He did not survive in this form, he'll still be around for a long time, though, Chris Christie.
BLITZER: Well, let me bring in Alayna Treene to this conversation as well.
Alayna, you've been doing a lot of reporting on what's going on within the Republican Party. Does someone like Chris Christie have a future in the Republican Party?
ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right. Well, Wolf, look, I think what he does next is still unclear, but I think he had a really difficult path ahead for him. He's really staked his campaign on being the candidate who was willing to take Donald Trump on. And in the process, he alienated himself. And I think if you take a step back, and you look at what he was really trying to do, he was fighting for the future direction of the Republican Party.
But I think as we've seen, it's become more clear that the anti-Trump voices, the room for those types of voices has become much more difficult at the national level. So I think it's unclear where he goes from here. A lot of people really turned off by his way of making his campaign all about being against Donald Trump, but we'll see what he tries to do next.
BLITZER: We will see. In a few minutes, we'll have live coverage of that coming up.
David, let me get back to you. Do you expect that Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis will actually try to reach out to Christie's voters during tonight's Republican presidential debate right here on CNN?
CHALIAN: You know, it's such a good question, Wolf, because it puts them in a bit of a box, right? I mean, obviously, as we discussed, Nikki Haley is a natural place for a lot of Christie supporters in New Hampshire, at least as we see in the polling. But Ron DeSantis has been courting a lot of the Trump wing of the party, even as he's trying to be a Trump alternative throughout this race, looking to peel away some of the former president's support. And so, it's hard to sort of court the chief Trump antagonist and maintain your support for Trump's universe. So it may put DeSantis in a bit of bind.
We'll see if it comes up on the debate stage tonight. Obviously, I'm sure both these candidates, given the position they have in the race right now, Wolf, you know, far behind the dominant front runner are going to welcome anybody support to their effort at this stage of the game. And that includes Chris Christie and his supporters. But how they approach that, if not on the debate stage tonight in the days ahead, is going to be something to watch.
BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Jeff, let me get back to you, you're there in Iowa. As we know, Christie wasn't necessarily campaigning a lot in Iowa. So does this announcement as he's going to make in the next few minutes have any impact on the race there where you are?
ZELENY: Well, Wolf, certainly not in the immediate sense. In fact, he did not campaign in Iowa at all. He of course did in a limited fashion in 2016. But he did not campaign this cycle here. Of course, he was not going to be on the debate stage here at Drake University in the hall behind me where the debate will take place.
But I don't know that it we can say that it definitely will not have an impact. I mean, this race is a national race, as we've seen, really from campaign cycle to campaign cycle. These races are nationalized. So, obviously, what is happening in New Hampshire is, you know, being absorbed by Iowa voters. So, the first blush, you would say it would certainly be a benefit for Nikki Haley.
But in terms of the outcome next week, I'm not sure it impacts that at all. Perhaps it adds a little more fuel to her tank, if you will, a little more incentive to get back to New Hampshire and start winning over some of those voters. But in the immediate sense, I'm not sure it impacts Iowa voters all that much. Because, again, Chris Christie was not a factor here. But for those Republicans who are interested in a new generation of leader who are interested in turning the page for it, they may see that Nikki Haley now is the best alternative for that, or perhaps Ron DeSantis is. So, you know, in a nationalized race, it's hard to say it won't have any impact. But it certainly won't have an impact on the electoral results here next Monday night, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Good reporting.
S.E., I want to bring you back into this conversation. CNN's Jamie Gangel is now reporting that while Chris Christie is not expected to officially endorse another candidate tonight, he may do so in the future. Is there anyone besides Nikki Haley he's likely to consider from your perspective?
CUPP: I really can't see that happening. I think he's most aligned with Nikki Haley. And I think that's reflected in the fact that they're both kind of going all in on New Hampshire. They really think that, you know, they have sort of similar voting blocks there. And I think she would be the most likely candidate.
We'll see and anything can happen. It would be a shame if he didn't endorse anyone. And I think she could certainly benefit from his voters. You know, if there's an appeal to independents and moderates, which is what I'm watching for in this primary, whether independents and moderates will decide they want Trump again or a Trump alternative. I think the ones that were interested in Christie might also be interested in Nikki Haley, and vice versa.
So, I think while they're both very different candidates. They share a lot of the same voters, they drink from the same water in many respects. And so, it'd be interesting tonight to see if Nikki Haley is going to speak on that and directly address Chris Christie's supporters in a way that kind of makes her appealing to them.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Van, Christie forcefully denied he was dropping out just yesterday after the New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said those conversations were underway. So what do you think changed?
JONES: I don't know. It's weird, because, you know, you have this kind of straight shooter persona, if you're Chris Christie. So when he said it yesterday, I think most people said, well, I don't know if some strange is going on, but Chris Christie is pretty much a straight shooter. If he's saying with that much force that this is a nonstarter, you just kind of turned the page on it. So it is very weird within 24 hours for him to be coming on stage.
And essentially saying, well, nevermind, all this other stuff was more correct than we thought. So he'll have to clean that up and address that. But this kind of stuff that kind of stutter start, I'm sure there's a lot of chaos inside his own head and heart as he's trying to figure out what to do and what not to do. Imagine sitting there and thinking to yourself, I have these votes in my back pocket in New Hampshire, if I put them up back on the table, and Nikki Haley can pick them up, maybe she comes within striking distance of a Donald Trump, maybe that changes the whole trajectory of the race. Or do I stay here and continue to fight for what I believe in?
That is a very tough choice to make. So I can imagine there may have been some chaos in his own head and heart yesterday, but there is a huge 180 degree difference between what he was saying yesterday and what he's saying today. I hope he clears that up tonight.
BLITZER: Let me get Alayna into this conversation once again. Alayna, how do you think Donald Trump is likely to react to Chris Christie's decision to get out of the race?
TREENE: Well, publicly, Wolf, I think you can expect Donald Trump to gloat. I think that he'll celebrate that Christie is dropping out. And I know from my conversations with Trump's advisors, they never really considered him a real player. And they weren't worried about him impacting Trump standing in the race.
But I think privately the other part of this is what him dropping out means for someone like Nikki Haley. That if the votes that he has in New Hampshire could potentially go to Haley, that will be a big concern for the Trump campaign. We know from my reporting and from our reporting from our colleagues, that Donald Trump's team is increasingly growing concerned about Haley's rise, particularly in New Hampshire, you're seeing them pour millions of dollars into attack ads going after Haley in New Hampshire. Trump has been escalating his attacks on Haley throughout the past several weeks now. And so I think that if they think that Christie's -- the voters who are backing Christie now, if he drops out of the race and those people go to someone like Haley, that could be very problematic for him.
BLITZER: Yes, good point, indeed.
David, are you surprised by how quickly Chris Christie's calculation on whether he was staying in the race or not has changed?
CHALIAN: You know, Wolf, I'm not sure we know yet exactly how quickly that calculation is. I mean, yes, I think every candidate is in this race to the end right up to they decide the moment they're not in this race anymore. I think that's pretty natural. But I think if you look at what the denial was yesterday about Chris Sununu, my guess is Chris Christie is -- was very focused on the very specifics of what Chris Sununu said yesterday, trying to avoid getting ahead of this announcement, perhaps I would imagine this is not an announcement made with snap judgment. I would have never imagined that this is something Chris Christie has been considering for days now to reach this point, this conclusion that there is no path to the nomination.
So he probably wanted to reject the very specifics of what Chris Sununu was saying, without dealing with the overall fact that even yesterday, perhaps, he may have known he wasn't in this race for the long haul.
BLITZER: And, David, just to be precise, on one specific point, I suspect we're going to hear Chris Christie say he's suspending, suspending his campaign. And that has specific legal ramifications to suspend as opposed to end, as far as campaign fundraising is concerned. Explain to our viewers.
CHALIAN: Exactly. I'm sure he will use that term suspending. That is common for people who sort of ended their campaigns to use that terminology, because sometimes campaigns are left at the end with a bunch of debt. We'll see when we see Chris Christie's final financial filings in the months ahead. But if you suspend your campaign, you do still have the ability to go ahead and retire that debt, wind down the campaign, you know, pay the remaining salaries left on payroll and all the like. It's not like you just shut off the lights, close the door and walk out.
Now, Christie, for his part was not campaigning with a very robust staff this time around. It was very different from his 2016 campaign. It was a lean mean machine.
BLITZER: Yes, we see the crowd standing up there applauding. He's obviously coming out and he's heading towards the microphone, we'll hear what he has to say.
Jeff, you've covered many of these presidential campaigns over the years. Take us through this process when a candidate decides to suspend the race. I'm using that word, to suspend the race.
ZELENY: Look, this is something that is so deeply personal to a presidential candidate, particularly someone like Chris Christie, who has been through this once before. There aren't that many politicians in our current American life who have had to end two presidential campaigns. It's really just a few handful. So look, he knows how difficult this is. He was not in this for a vanity run, he was in this for a very specific mission.
As Van was saying, a kamikaze mission to try and take down Donald Trump. He can see that was not working. And you can see in the final weeks his crowds were not what he hoped.
BLITZER: Jeff, hold on for a minute. I want to hear -- I want to hear what he has to say. Here's Chris Christie.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Happy to be here in Windham. Thank you all for taking the time to come. Glad we're having better weather than we had yesterday. And we're up in Rochester yesterday and it was snowing. A real New Hampshire snow.
So it was good to experience that. So thank you all for coming tonight. I appreciate you being here. Appreciate your support.
You know, we start these town halls the same way. I started on the same way ever since we were up in St. Anselm's in June to tell you why, why we're in this race. And we're in this race to tell the truth. From the beginning, we've been in this race to tell the truth. Fact is that as we were watching this race come together from where Mary Pat and I were sitting at home in New Jersey, we were really concerned that nobody would tell the truth in this race about what's really at stake and no one would tell the truth about Donald Trump.
[17:25:12] No one would tell the truth about his divisiveness, his stoking of anger for his own benefit in putting himself before the people of this country, myself included, who gave him the honor of being president of United States for 2017 to 2021. Personally ambition is a necessary element for any political candidate. You've got to get out of bed in the morning and be able to really believe in your heart that you have something to offer to folks that's better and different. And so I have no argument with people who are involved in politics being ambitious, you need to have it. But it can't be what governs your decision making.
Ambition can't be what makes you decide how to do things as a public figure. It can just be the fuel that gets you out of bed, that gets you in front of a room like this, that gets you on the phone raising money that gets your working for people, who you believe in and get your work done for yourself. I made a political decision eight years ago when I dropped out of the race in 2016, I looked at the polls, and I decided that Donald Trump was going to be the nominee. And that since I've known him for 15 years, that I can make him a better candidate, and if he won, maybe a better president.
I knew his flaws, but I also knew he was going to win the nomination, so I decided that I would get behind him and support him. I let the ambition get ahead and in control of the decision making. And after I figured that out, I promised myself and I promised my wife that I would never ever do that again. And I'm not going to.
So for all the people who have been in this race, who have put their own personal ambition ahead of what's right, they will ultimately have to answer the same questions that I had to answer after my decision in 2016. Those questions don't ever leave. In fact, they're really stubborn. They stay. And so I know how I'm answering those questions.
I've never believed that Donald Trump was a foregone conclusion as our nominee in this race. And I knew that the case had to be made against him. Now there are people in our party who are resigned the fact that he was going to be the nominee, resigned with the fact that case didn't even need to be made, because it would be a waste of time. They sat on the sidelines and all they did was voiced their opposition in private, behind closed doors quietly so no one could hear. And that's not leadership, everybody.
That's cowardice. Cowardice and it's hypocrisy. As a party, we need to be willing to take the responsibility for the part we've played in getting here. Our country is angry, it's divided, it's accomplishing little, and it is leaving our citizens to be exhausted. And you just look at what's happening just in the last few days.
Good people who got into politics, I believe, for the right reasons. People like Senator John Barrasso. People like Congressman Tom Emmer, stand up and endorsed Donald Trump. They know better. I know they know better.
People who continue to deny the results of the 2020 election. People in leadership in the House who go on T.V. and say that the people who attack the Capitol on January 6 are hostages. I'll tell you who hostages are, the Israelis who are still being hidden in tunnels in Gaza against their will that have no fault of their own.
These people speak louder for the folks who attacked our Capitol on January 6th than they are willing to stand up and speak for the people of Israel who are in tunnels in Gaza. That's not leadership. That's the ambition and cowardice, which is outstripped their otherwise good judgment.
We want to change this party. And if we want to change this country, it's hard work. It's not easy. From the moment I got into the race, the decision that I made was really simple. I would rather lose by telling the truth, than lie in order to win. And I feel no differently today because this is a fight for the soul of our party and the soul of our country.
Why have we resisted the calls to drop out of this race? Because unlike some of the other candidates, we're fighting for something bigger than ourselves, we're fighting for something bigger than self- interest. We're fighting for something bigger than the next title. I've got plenty of titles, enough titles to last me the rest of my life, U.S. attorney, governor, husband, father, son, brother, I have enough titles to last me for the rest of my life.
We're fighting for something bigger. There's something that conventional wisdom thinkers just can't possibly understand. And so they've been saying for weeks and weeks and weeks, because suppose that I should drop out of the race that I should get out for that reason. The smallness of the campaigns, who spend more time arguing and worrying about who should get out of the race, then they have spent going after the front runner. They spend all their time saying, oh, Christie should get out, Scott should get out, Pence should get out, Hutchinson should get out, Burgum should get out, they and their donors have a different target every day, to try to minimize the attention for their own campaign.
Now, their own campaign is a campaign that doesn't play to win. It's a campaign that place to not offend, problems in our country, the divisions, an influx at our border, the problems with our enormous debt, the failures of our education system. All of those things, and much more will not be solved by people who are too afraid to talk about what the real problems are.
If we ever have a hope of restoring this party, to be a governing party of principles, we have to be willing to do the hard work and take some of the heat that comes with it. We have candidates in this race who have run away from forums where they were afraid they were going to be booed. I run into the forums where I know I'm going to be booed because being booed for telling the truth is a badge of honor. I'm proud of everything we've said and done so far.
And I'm proud of all the people who have supported us and are willing to do what needs to be done to restore the soul of our country. Because in the end, all those issues that we've talked about and all the town halls, they're all really important. But they're no more important than the most important issue. And that is the character of the candidate. You don't know what's going to come across the next president's desk. You think you can predict it, but you can't.
No one asked George W. Bush or Al Gore, what they would do for airliners were hijacked and flown into symbols of American power and killing thousands of Americans. No one asked them that New Hampshire in 2000. But I was glad we have a man of character sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office when that attack came. Because I knew George Bush would do everything he needed to do to protect this country and its people and put them first out himself first.
Imagine just for a moment, if 9/11 had happened with Donald Trump behind the desk, the first thing he would have done was run through the bunker to protect himself. He would have put himself first, before this country. And anyone who is unwilling to say that he is unfit to be president of the United States, is unfit themselves to be president of the United States.
Campaigns are run to win. That's why we do them. I see the chairman here in New Hampshire, he knows. We run campaigns to win. My goal has never been to be just a voice against the hate and the division and the selfishness of what our party has become onto Donald Trump. It's also been to win the nomination and defeat Joe Biden, and restore our party and our country to a new place of hope and optimism in this country.
I've always said that there came a point in time in this race where I couldn't see a path to accomplishing that goal that I would get out. And it's clear to me tonight, that there isn't a path for me to win the nomination, which is why I'm suspending my campaign tonight for president of United States. I know, I can see it from some of the faces here that I'm disappointing some people by doing this, people who believe in our message and believe in what we've been doing.
I also know though, it's the right thing for me to do because I want to promise you this, I am going to make sure that in no way, do I enable Donald Trump ever be president of the United States again. And that's more important than my own personal ambition.
So we have to decide now, we have to decide in the next 10 months, who do we want to be as a country. We forget that people are walking thousands of miles still to get here. We talk about the problems in the border. And there are problems and we have to fix them. We have to secure our border. And we have to do it in a way that's smart and sensible and will work because it's not right to have a porous southern border in this country.
But I want you to remember something, those people who are coming over that border, many of them are walking hundreds, if not thousands of miles to get there because here is where they see hope. Here is where they see freedom. Here is where they see success. Here is where they see that flag, which means for them thousands of miles away and other countries. All of those principles, we are still the indispensable nation for the rest of the world.
We need to be the instant dispensable nation once again to each other. We need to believe in America as much as they believe in America. Right now, they believe in America in a way that this country angry, divided with selfish leadership, who puts their own ambition first, isn't doing for our country anymore. We need to change that in every election is an opportunity to change it.
We have people in this race. All they will do is tell you how bad everything is, how angry we should be. And there's certainly sufficient reason for anger at the failures of the leaders we've selected. But they're doing it not for that reason. It's not a moment of honesty, and transparency, believe me. It's not. It's because they believe when we get angry, what we'll do is naturally relate to the angriest voice in the room.
Donald Trump wants you to be angry every day because he's angry. He wants you to be angry so that you'll relate to his anger and then to vote for him. Please understand this, I have known him well, for 22 years, more than anybody else in this race has known him. And I can promise you this, if you put him back behind the desk in the Oval Office, and the choice comes, and the decision is needed to be made, as to whether he puts himself first or he puts you first, how much more evidence do you need that he will pick himself.
And if that is what we have there, then people are going to remain angry, remain divided, and become even more exhausted than they are today. The country that I think we should choose is the country that recognizes that our differences have always been our strength, not a weakness, not something to divide us and anger us. But our differences have been our strength. We've come from different countries, at different times, to different places, with different skills, with different religions.
And yet, only here in those people become an American. They go to Germany and become a German. They have to come to Great Britain and become British. But you can come here and become an American, a real part of this country. The moment we become a place where people no longer want to come in search of a better, freer, stronger nation, that will be the real problem that will be harder to solve.
We back our allies around the world. They shouldn't have to think twice about having American support. Yet, we have petty politics interfering with supporting freedom fighters in Ukraine. We have petty politics interfering with defending our friends in Israel. We have petty politics interfering with making sure Taiwan is armed to fight off the Chinese. They use the border as an excuse not to do those things. How about, we have a country where we can do all those things because leadership aspires to something greater not to appealing to the lowest common denominator, it's what the leadership of the last decade and a half in the White House has done including the current president.
We need a country that once again feels like everyone has a stake in what we're doing of you bring people together, and it's hard, it's hard to do that. I did it for eight years in New Jersey, in a democratic state with a Republican governor. And it's hard, because we have real disagreements. But those disagreements are small compared to the things that we have in common. But it takes effort. We have to work at it. We have to believe that the other person has a rightful place in our country.
We have to believe that whether we agree with them or not, they got elected too and they have a right to have a voice and to be heard and to have a vote and to have a count. This race has always been bigger than me. It's bigger than any one person if you do it the right way. I tried to change conversation in this race. I tried to force a conversation in this race, conversation about the real thing that's going on here.
I stood on those debate stages, every one of them. The pundits in the media and the professional politicians who worked for other campaigns said I wasn't going to make any of them, right, before every debate, no, Christie won't make this one, he only make this one. I made every one of them. But when I stood on there, I watched the other candidates arguing with each other as if the race was between us, pretending as if the guy who's in front and wasn't there wasn't to be spoken about, like Voldemort in the Harry Potter books, he who shall not be named because they feared even bringing up his name would make him appear with his magical mystical powers to end their political careers so they say ridiculous things, make ridiculous points.
And let me tell you, if Donald Trump becomes the nominee of this party, the moment that had happened was when Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis and Tim Scott and Mike Pence and Doug Burgum and Vivek Ramaswamy, stood on that stage in Milwaukee in August. And when we were asked, would you support someone who is a convicted felon to be president of the United States, they raised their hands.
He run credit, he had to look at everybody else first to see if he wanted to raise his hand, but then he raised his hand. And like cheating off somebody's paper in high school, they raise their hands. And I did not and will not and I cannot countenance that behavior. I want you to imagine for a second that Jefferson and Hamilton and Adams and Washington and Franklin, were sitting here tonight, do you think they could imagine that the country they risked their lives to create would actually be having a conversation about whether a convicted criminal should be president of the United States.
I can't tell you how many people in New Hampshire have asked me, why isn't there a law against that? The answer is because nobody ever thought that someone would have the audacity to run for president as a criminal. And they never thought that any American electorate would actually support it. It's not their fault, that they didn't put it in the Constitution, along with 35 years old, and a natural born American citizen.
They didn't think, let's throw in here and not a criminal. They thought maybe we'd get that part. We're going to show them now whether we do or we don't in the next 10 months. Do we get it the right way? I'm out here, saying what I'm saying for the last eight months because I didn't want to take the chance that you might not get it. I want it to be the voice that was telling you. This is unacceptable. We deserve better.
And now there's some people who want the courts to save us. It's not up to the courts to save us. I remember what Benjamin Franklin said, I'm sure many of you do, too. When he was walking down the street in Philadelphia after the Constitutional Convention, and a woman approached them on the street and said, Mr. Franklin, what kind of government did you give us? And he said to the woman a republic, if you can keep it.
Benjamin Franklin's words were never more relevant in America than they are right now. The last time they were this relevant was the Civil War, which of course we know was caused by slavery. The last time those words were that relevant, back in those days. And now we are confronted 160 years later with that question again, a republic if we can keep it. It's up to you.
I've been running ads all over New Hampshire ending it saying, it's up to you. And it is. It's not up to me. I've done everything I can. And it's not about me. The other candidates, some of them have made it about them. OK. But you forget that the privilege to serve in public office is not about you, but about the people who give you the privilege, then you lose your way. And so tonight is a sad night for me and for Mary Pat because believe it or not, we really love the people in the state. We love being here.
Both of our experiences 2016 and 2024 and coming to New Hampshire and holding two-hour town hall meetings and answering every question has been one of the great joys and honors of our lives. The relationships we've made here have been lifelong relationships now that we're going to keep going forward, no matter what else we do with our lives and our careers.
I look around this room and see so many people who have been to so many of these meetings and have been so wonderfully supportive of us and start to name names, but then I'd screw that up. And I'd forget somebody who was really important to us. So I'm not going to do that. You know who you are. And you know how much we treasure our relationships with you.
But I will mention one person, because she texted me either last night or this morning. And she said to me, please, please don't drop out, we need you. And that was our friend Tony Pappas. And because I had decided at that moment in my heart and said Mary Pat, that we were going to, I didn't respond to you because I didn't want to lie to you.
But I turned to Mary Pat, and I handed her the phone and showed her. I said, these are the kind of people that we're fighting for, the people who believe that what we have to offer is something important and special. And that we were talking about matters. And it meant a lot to me to get that text from you, Tony, because I know that you've been through a lot of campaigns here in this state.
And to hear from you that you wanted me to stay, made me feel guilty but also made me feel wonderful. And, you know, both those feelings can exist at the same time. And I thank you for that. And what Tony and I pointed out with Tony is represented by a lot of people in this room, who we've heard from over the last few weeks.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to monitor Chris Christie's very, very powerful, very dramatic statement, suspending his presidential campaign, but not necessarily endorsing any of the other Republican candidates. I want to bring back our political team for some analysis that David Chalian he was so, so tough on Trump probably the toughest I've heard him so far in this campaign. What's your reaction to what we just heard from Chris Christie?
CHALIAN: Well, obviously, Chris Christie leaves this campaign in the very same rationale as to why he got in it. But Wolf, his assessment, I think, gets to the heart of this entire story, which is that this has been what he has been selling. And it has not been bought by the Republican primary electorate, not nationally. And even, you know, not really in New Hampshire as he was in third place there, now that doesn't change his values. And he said very much that character is on the ballot.
He clearly challenged the people. He is leaving behind in this race, namely DeSantis and Haley saying, if you can't call Donald Trump unfit for the presidency, then you yourself are unfit for the presidency. Those are stark words to leave to his former opponents. And look at the timing of this. Chris Christie is obviously not unaware that there's a debate tonight in Iowa on this stage, right behind me between DeSantis and Haley, and has clearly chosen this moment to inject his rationale for his candidacy into this race at the time of his departure, to sort of leave it sitting there for the remaining candidates running against Donald Trump to consider.
But again, I think it is crucial that we look at where Republican primary voters have been throughout this race. And Chris Christie has been relentless in this argument that he has been pitching to voters and they have not been buying it. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, he was very, very firm. He said Trump is unfit to be president of the United States. And if any of the other Republican candidates refuse to say that they are also unfit to be president of the United States, a very strong statement indeed.
Jeff Zeleny, it was very reflective of this speech that we just heard, the personal speech from Chris Christie. What do you make of what we just heard?
ZELENY: Wolf, it certainly was, it was steeped in a history and really a unique understanding of being a presidential candidate that very few people have. He talked about how he got out of the race in 2016 and how he enabled Donald Trump.
And he, you know, sort of fast forward eight years, he said he would not be an enabler to Donald Trump. And he would rather lose by telling the truth than when by doing something less than that. But also went through just the history of 9/11. Imagine if Donald Trump had been in the Oval Office on that day, so really continuing his blistering attacks on the former president, that as David was saying, have really had a little effect on the Republican primary race at all.
But boy, those words are essentially etched in stone for this general election campaign. If Donald Trump does become the nominee, and we do not know if that will happen, of course, voters have to start voting meeting next week. But if he does, these words are etched in stone. And I can promise you, the Biden campaign and Democrats will use them as an argument for independent voters against Donald Trump.
But before any of that, I think the probably the most surprising, and perhaps the most stinging indictment was against his fellow challengers. And he's really said much of that some of it in private about to Nikki Haley and others, but it certainly puts to rest any suggestion that he is going to be a Russian to endorse Nikki Haley.
Now, his voters, of course, he doesn't own his voters. So voters will make an individual judgment whether there is an endorsement or not. But I think a very striking speech, a very, really a pointed remarks on many, many fronts, that gives us significant amount to analyze and discuss going forward, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, very important indeed. S.E., he specifically said, there isn't a path for me to win the nomination. And that's why he said he's suspending his campaign right now. Why do you think, S.E., Christie's campaign failed to really catch on, and what does that say about the current Republican Party?
CUPP: Yes, well, the current Republican Party does not deserve Chris Christie. That was an incredible speech, and really kind of ticked down a list of things that Republicans because of Trump have forgotten, abandoned and decided no longer matter. All those reminders were really important, but the speech was striking because it wasn't your typical concession speech, right?
Like I hope the rest of the field does well. And you know, we've -- it's been an honor to run. I mean, he really targeted not just his competitors naming, you know, Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott and Ron DeSantis by name, but he also kind of scolded the electorate for voting for Donald Trump and not caring about his obvious flaws. He scolded members of the House and Senate by name, John Barrasso, Tom Emmer.
I mean, this was kind of a barnburner. And I think Chris Christie is coming out of this with deep, deep disappointment, that his message to voters did not, you know, do the job. I mean, he took that very seriously to the point where, you know, if I failed to mention on television that Chris Christie had taken it to Trump, and instead I said, you know, none of the candidates are really coming for Donald Trump, he would text me and point out, no, no, I did, because it mattered to him, that that message was heard.
So I think he's deeply disappointed, maybe a little bitter. He sounded a little bitter. But that speech was incredible. And, you know, I unfortunately, just don't know that there's much of an audience on the right for it. BLITZER: Yes, it was a very, very powerful speech indeed.
Van Jones, Christie spoke about fighting for the soul of the country. A very similar message to what we've often heard from President Biden, in fact, right?
JONES: Yes, absolutely. I think he actually believes that deep in his heart. You know, there's a couple of things going on here. One is, I think he felt -- feels that he let the country down by not taking this position at the beginning of the Trump phenomenon, and hitching his wagon to Donald Trump, and writing it as far as he could go, actually. He was a part of tried to put together the Trump cabinet before he got booted out. And I think he felt bad about that. I think he can feel better this time, because he did stick up for principle.
But, you know, losing sucks. And not only has he lost, now he is lost. Where do people like him go now? I don't think he felt comfortable in the Democratic Party. And is there no longer a place for people like him in the Republican Party and he's not by himself. These huge numbers for Donald Trump are a factor and a phenomenon. But there are millions and millions of Republicans who do feel the way that Chris Christie feels in their disappointment with Donald Trump.
They may not translate that to supporting Chris Christie, but this party is in a tough position if someone like Chris Christie can't even stay in the race long enough to get a single vote with the level of integrity he's shown, what does it say about him? What does it say about the party? And what does it say about the future of this country and the possible leadership once again, of a Donald Trump?
BLITZER: We'll see what happens next. All right, thank you very, very much.