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Chris Christie launches 2024 bid: Choose 'big' over 'small,' he says, slamming Trump as 'mirror hog'

"Eight years ago, you were entertained," he said. "I forgive you."

June 6, 2023, 10:36 PM

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced on Tuesday that he is running for president, adding a firm anti-Trump voice to a still growing Republican primary field that has been hesitant to directly take on the former president and early front-runner.

Christie had no such reluctance about Trump, as he made clear in an hourslong town hall-style event in New Hampshire.

"At every pivotal moment in our history, there was a choice between small and big -- and America became the most different, the most successful, the most fabulous light for the rest of the world in history because we always picked big," Christie said at Manchester's Saint Anselm College, kicking off his campaign.

"The reason I'm here tonight is because this is one of those moments," he said.

At the end of a roughly 30-minute speech, Christie, referencing a past conversation between President John Adams and first lady Abigail Adams, vowed to the audience: "I can't guarantee to you success in what I'm about to do, but I guarantee you that at the end of it, you will have no doubt in your mind who I am and what I stand for and whether I deserve it."

"So that's why I came back to Saint Anselm ... to tell all of you that I intend to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States in 2024 and I want your support," he said.

In his remarks and answers to audience members' questions, Christie repeatedly called out Trump, labeling him "self-serving" and "self-consumed," a "mirror hog." Going after Trump was the way to win the nomination, Christie argued.

"Eight years ago, it was amusing. Eight years ago, you were entertained. I forgive you," he said of Trump's 2016 campaign. "It's not funny anymore. It's not amusing anymore. It's not entertaining anymore."

PHOTO: Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a New Hampshire Town Hall at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, N. H., on June 6, 2023.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a New Hampshire Town Hall at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, N. H., on June 6, 2023.
Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Christie, a former ABC News contributor, made clear that he was not only campaigning to call out the man he largely supported throughout Trump's four years in the White House; he entered this race because he also wants to win, he said.

"There are not multiple lanes to the Republican nomination -- that is a political science professor's dream. There is one lane to the Republican nomination, and he's in front of it. And if you want to win, you better go right through," Christie said.

"The reason I'm going after Trump is twofold," he said. "One, he deserves it. And two, it's the way to win. So these two are not divided. ... Let me be very clear: I am going out there to take out Donald Trump, but here's why -- I want to win."

Christie also knocked Republicans whom he said do not call out Trump by name, likening it to the suspicion about Voldemort -- "he who shall not be named" -- from the Harry Potter series.

While Christie initially jabbed at Trump more subtly, eventually he invoked the ex-commander in chief directly.

"Let me be clear, in case I have not been already: 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 find 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," Christie said. "And if we don't have that conversation with you, we don't deserve to ask for your vote."

Later, asked by a 15-year-old attendee how he planned to "win over Trump voters" when he doesn't seem to be appealing to them, Christie rejected the premise -- after joking that he was glad the young man wasn't old enough to vote.

"There is no such thing as Trump voters. He doesn't own them. He didn't take title to them. They're not one of his buildings. They're not one of his failed casinos in New Jersey," Christie said. "I voted for him twice. OK, am I a Trump voter, then? Hell no, man."

"Elections in the United States of America are not about anything other than a choice," he continued, arguing that this election, voters will have new options to make a choice other than Trump.

PHOTO: Republican Presidential candidate Chris Christie speaks at a town hall event in Manchester, New Hampshire, on June 6, 2023.
Republican Presidential candidate Chris Christie speaks at a town hall event in Manchester, New Hampshire, on June 6, 2023.
ABC News, POOL

While he spent much of the nearly three-hour event contrasting himself with the former president -- and criticizing what he called Trump's failures on immigration -- Christie also made the case against President Joe Biden, whom Christie said was past his prime.

"I've known him for 40 years. He's a nice man. He is out of his depth. Because he's not the guy he used to be," Christie said. "Father time always wins -- he always wins. And he's not what he used to be. So we don't need someone timid, quiet, who's not speaking to us regularly in the White House."

"Joe Biden never beat anybody outside the state of Delaware in 45 years. Except for one guy. Donald J. Trump," Christie said. "Joe Biden ran for president three times and never won, never won anything outside the state of Delaware, not once until he ran up against the guy who the American people knew in their heart was full of it."

Christie kicked off his campaign in a key early primary state that was also a focus for the former governor during his 2016 campaign, his first attempt at winning the White house. That bid ended days after the "first-in-the-nation" primary, where he placed sixth despite his extensive efforts in the state. Soon after he dropped out, he endorsed then-candidate Trump and continued to largely back Trump throughout his presidency.

That changed after rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, following a monthslong campaign by Trump and his allies to delegitimize the results of the 2020 election by alleging mass fraud. No evidence has arisen to support those false claims.

Christie joins an already large field that in addition to the former president includes former Ambassador to the U.N. and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is currently polling in second behind Trump.

Trump reacted to Christie's launch in a post on his social media platform, Truth Social. Trump appeared to have been watching at least some of Christie's remarks live, based on when he posted.

"How many times did Chris Christie use the word SMALL? Does he have a psychological problem with SIZE? Actually, his speech was SMALL, and not very good. It rambled all over the place, and nobody had a clue of what he was talking about," Trump wrote, calling Christie "hard to watch," "boring" and a "failed" governor.

Mike Pence, a former Indiana governor who served Trump's loyal vice president until the events of Jan. 6, on Monday filed paperwork for his presidential candidacy with the Federal Election Commission and is expected to formally announce his long-expected campaign Wednesday in Iowa.

Doug Burgum, the relatively nationally unknown governor of North Dakota, is also expected to launch his campaign Wednesday.