Chris Christie delivered a semi-noteworthy speech at the Ronald Reagan Library late last week.
The former two-term governor of New Jersey has stayed in the public eye the past four years with podcast and television interviews, plus appearances most Sundays on ABC’s This Week, where he promotes himself and remains a critic of the Biden administration.
“We need to free ourselves from the quick sand of endless grievances,” he said early in his speech. “We need to face the realities of the 2020 election and learn, not hide from them. We need to discredit extremists in our midst. We need to renounce the conspiracy theorists and the truth-deniers, the ones who know better and the ones who are just plain nuts.”
Taking aim at former President Donald Trump and his followers’ stolen election claim is intriguing, since perhaps no leading Republican did more to help Trump secure the party’s nomination in 2016 than Christie. After his campaign flamed out in late February, Christie immediately embraced Trump, becoming one the first erstwhile Republican candidates to accept that Trump would likely be the standard-bearer.
It was calculating but not unwise. Christie was a lame duck, unpopular governor and, as an opportunist, he wanted to keep his name around for a vice presidential nod and a 2024 presidential run.
Leftists might say he failed to speak out during Trump’s presidency — they believe every Republican was blindly loyal to Trump — but they’re wrong.
“It’s not difficult to see why Christie would be tempted to get out in front for the battle for this lane,” Ed Morrissey wrote at HotAir. “Although Christie went a bit MAGA in 2016 and endorsed Trump and the populist vision for the party, Trump famously snubbed Christie and denied him a place in the administration. Christie might be looking for a little retribution. The question is whether the GOP still has enough Trump skeptics in its ranks to make this a good strategy in a head-to-head battle with Trump himself.”
There are popular conservatives who mourn the loss of what is deemed traditional Republicanism and know Trump is unpopular in many places, but will they tear the party apart in order to save it?
“If someone is going to push Republicans away from Trumpism, it’s probably not going to be Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger or Mitt Romney,” a GOP consultant told me Monday morning. “They stood on their principles, and while they gain admiration for consistency, it’s hurt them with ardent populists and cable news media chorus. Maybe a former loyalist who earned credibility as a conservative during the Trump years is the answer.”
Because Christie helped get us here — recall his bizarre, self-serving 2012 RNC speech — maybe he has a role to play in Republican politics the next few years, if he strikes the right message.