(WASHINGTON) — Chris Christie said on Sunday that the “most amazing part” of the first Republican primary debate was seeing the majority of candidates say they would support Donald Trump as the party’s nominee even if the former president is criminally convicted — as Christie called that a recipe for “four more years of Joe Biden.”
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” with co-anchor Martha Raddatz, the former New Jersey governor, who is challenging Trump as one of his most vocal conservative critics in the primary, dismissed the possibility “that you can have a convicted felon as our nominee for president” and that Trump could potentially win against President Biden.
Christie, a former ABC News contributor, said he believes that is an “impossibility.”
Trump denies all wrongdoing.
“I think what it’ll mean for folks across the country is for more years of Joe Biden and for Republican primary voters, they have to think about what that’ll mean: potentially a packed Supreme Court, potentially the elimination of the filibuster [in the Senate] and a lot more,” Christie said, adding, “What’s at stake here is we need to nominate someone who’s proven that they can beat Democratic incumbents.”
Asked by Raddatz about the voters who have expressed a lack of interest in Trump’s looming criminal proceedings and instead pointed to the legal troubles of the president’s son Hunter Biden, Christie said that Hunter Biden, who has been accused of tax crimes, is not running for office.
Both Hunter Biden and Trump have pleaded not guilty to their charges.
“Some of those voters who say that the Hunter Biden thing matters but Donald Trump’s doesn’t — that’s just wishful thinking,” Christie said. “The fact is that the two people who would be on the ballot if we nominated Donald Trump would be Donald Trump and Joe Biden, not Hunter Biden. And the fact is, it’s the conduct of the people who are running for office that’s going to matter the most.”
According to a post-debate FiveThirtyEight/Washington Post/Ipsos poll, 22% of likely Republican primary voters said that Christie had the worst night on stage, the highest share of any candidate.
When asked Sunday for his reaction, Christie dismissed those numbers, saying other surveys show he did better.
“I don’t think that the polls really matter all that much. What matters and what’s going to endure is do people see someone up there telling the truth or not? Do they see you playing politics, or do you see you working for the American people and what they believe in?” Christie said.
Christie, who sparred frequently with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy at Wednesday’s debate in Milwaukee, was pressed by Raddatz on the strategy behind his and other’s attacks on Ramaswamy — who is rising in national surveys of primary voters — and why they decided to target him instead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who remains in second place in the race behind Trump, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average.
“Look, I think the idea of ‘why don’t we go after this one or go after that one?’ — my job is to communicate my vision for the future of the country. And if there’s something that someone says that I drastically object to, and I have the opportunity to do so, I’ll do it,” Christie said. “Gov. DeSantis’s answers that night, while some of them I might disagree with, I didn’t think it rose to the level of having to get in a back and forth with him in the first debate in August of 2023.”
Christie added that he predicts “whatever happens in debate No. 1 will not be determinative of the Iowa caucus or the New Hampshire primary” early next year.
Asked if he believed Trump would show up to the next primary debate, on Sept. 27 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, Christie said he thinks Trump will not want to get anywhere near the venue and “suffer that comparison” to “an honest, direct, successful conservative” like Reagan. (Trump has criticized Christie in turn as a “failed” governor and candidate.)
Trump campaign adviser Chris LaCivita said last week that while Trump “could change his mind at any moment,” he’s likely not going to attend the next debate. Trump has suggested he sees no value in attending debates, given his large lead.
“But we’ll see if he shows up for debate No. 3, in Alabama,” Christie said on Sunday. “I think that one is much more likely that he’ll show up. I certainly don’t think he’ll be showing up at the Reagan Library.”
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