Chris Christie barely qualified for Wednesday night’s debate stage, but he wasted no opportunity to alienate himself from a grassroots base of loyal Trump activists who filled the auditorium and loudly booed him when he suggested the former president won’t be able to vote on Election Day next year because he will be a “convicted felon.”
The former New Jersey governor and onetime Trump ally read studiously from notes while reciting his story time narrative of how President Donald Trump will eventually be convicted in one of his four criminal cases and as a result “have his right to vote taken away.” The insult drew a wall of catcalling that threatened to drown out the rest of Christie’s answer.
“I want you all to kind of picture in your minds Election Day. You’ll all be heading to the polls to vote, and that’s something that Donald Trump will not be able to do, because he will be convicted of felonies before then and his right to vote will be taken away,” Christie started before the audience turned on him.
“You know, look, here’s the bottom line,” he continued, trying to overcome their visceral reaction. “You can boo about it all you like and continue to deny reality, but if we deny reality as a party we’re going to have four more years of Joe Biden.”
As a former darling of the conservative movement during the heyday of the Tea Party, Christie has fallen badly out of step with the modern GOP as evidenced by the blowback Wednesday night. Newer figures to the party like Vivek Ramaswamy urged Christie to calm down, “enjoy a nice meal” and retire from politics. Christie, ever pugnacious, delivered a litany of retorts as he struggled to recapture the magic seen in his takedown of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) during the 2016 presidential debate season.
The party’s fourth — and likely last — presidential debate was filled with insults, rants, and generally everything that one may hear at a children’s Thanksgiving table. Just four candidates including Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Christie, and Ramaswamy met the stringent qualifications, though they trail President Trump by chasmic margins both nationally and in early voting states. Christie has staked his campaign on earning a second-place finish in New Hampshire, the state that ended his aspirations in 2016.
If Christie gets out of politics, he may have more time to counsel members of his family like his niece, who was recently arrested for hurling racist insults aboard an airplane.