Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie launched his second presidential campaign on Tuesday, entering the growing Republican primary race as former President Donald Trump's main antagonist.
Christie took aim at the former president throughout his remarks, calling him "a bitter, angry man who wants power back for himself."
The former New Jersey governor framed his decision to run for president a second time on his belief that the country is at a pivotal moment of having to choose between "big and small."
Christie made the case that in recent years the country has been helmed by people who have "led us to being small — small by their example, small by the way they conduct themselves, small by the things they tells us we should care about ... They're making us smaller by dividing us into smaller and smaller groups."
"All throughout our history, there have been moments where we've had to choose between big and small," he said. "I will tell you, the reason I'm here tonight is because this is one of those moments."
Christie filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission formalizing his candidacy on Tuesday afternoon and made his formal announcement in New Hampshire.
The former governor, who, views himself as someone who can stand up to and present a contrast with Trump, the early front-runner in the polls. Christie, who was once a Trump ally, may be the only candidate in the race so far who is willing to openly criticize Trump on a regular basis.
Christie said other Republican candidates are treating Trump like the Harry Potter villain Voldemort, tip-toeing around criticizing him by name.
"Let me be clear, in case I have not been already," Christie said after bashing Trump. "The person I am talking about — who is obsessed with the mirror, who never admits a mistake, who never admits a fault and who always finds someone else and something else to blame for whatever goes wrong, but finds every reason to take credit for anything that goes right — is Donald Trump."
He added later: "There is one lane for the Republican nomination and he's in front of it. And if you want to win, you better go right through him. Because let me guarantee you something from knowing him for 22 years, he's going to try and go through me. He's going to try and go through Ron [DeSantis] and Nikki [Haley] and Tim [Scott], and everybody else who stands in his way."
He said Trump made the country "smaller by dividing us even further and pitting one group against another." He also accused former President Barack Obama and President Biden of dividing Americans.
But Christie admitted he also has his faults.
"If you are in search of the perfect candidate, it is time to leave. I am not it. Not only am I not the perfect candidate, I'm far from the perfect person," he said. "What true leaders do is not try to pretend to you that we're perfect, because we're human just like you. Because in our country, in our democracy, we are no better and no worse than any of you. We are you."
After Trump's appearance in a CNN town hall in May, Christie tweeted reminders of what the former president had promised and what he did not deliver:
"More nonsense from Donald Trump last night. Fact: He promised to build a big beautiful wall on the border. Fact: He did not deliver & immigrants are pouring over the border. Fact: He said Mexico would pay for it. Fact: We have not gotten one peso yet. He failed us on immigration."
He called the former president a "coward" and a "puppet" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
At a town hall in March, Christie foreshadowed what his own presidential candidacy would look like.
"You better have somebody on that stage who can do to him what I did to Marco [Rubio], because that's the only thing that's gonna defeat Donald Trump,"at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. "And that means you have to be fearless, because he will come back, and right at you."
The mention of Sen. Marco Rubio was a reference to a 2016 presidential primary debate when Christie had memorably — and effectively — ripped into Rubio, mocking him for "memorized 30-second speeches" that he repeated several times during the debate.
Christie enters an— he's the ninth candidate, so far. Former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum are each planning to announce the launch of their respective campaigns Wednesday.
The large field threatens to fragment Republican primary support, a dynamic that led to. In May, Christie said the fear this could happen again in 2024 would not keep him out of the race.
"I think that analysis is a retrospective analysis. And every time you look at the next election through the prism of the last one then one thing I can guarantee you for sure is you're wrong," he said in May. He added, "Remember, in 2016, no one knew who Donald Trump was going to be as a political figure."
Trump shared on social media a Make America Great Again response to Christie's candidacy from spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt: "Ron DeSantis' campaign is spiraling, and President Trump's dominance over the Republican primary field has opened a mad rush to seize the mantle for runner-up. Ron DeSantis is not ready for this moment, and Chris Christie will waste no time eating DeSantis' lunch."
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