Chris Christie recently did a looooong interview with NewJersey.com, the transcript of which you can read right here. He’s finishing up his last term as New Jersey’s governor, and talked a lot about his run for president in 2016, and his plans from here on out.
But one particular item of interest was the fact that he’s pretty convinced he’d be president right now if the Trump phenomenon hadn’t happened. Check out this Q&A:
What was it like in ’16?
Incredibly exciting. At times really discouraging. You talk about living by polls. You’d holding your breath every time a poll came out as to whether you’re gonna be on the main stage (for GOP debates) or not, right? We fell off one time and it was devastating.
What’s exciting about it? It’s exhausting.
The stakes, the stakes are exciting. The issues you’re talking about are exciting. Now you’re talking about the world. … I got to learn so much. I spent a lot of time getting ready. I mean, meeting once a month with Henry Kissinger to get his advice on different areas of the world was an amazing learning experience.
I feel like all of that was really exciting. But there were also times that were deadly boring and tedious, you know, raising money and eternal rides in the car in Iowa because it’s so a big place you’d be in the car forever.
And ultimately frustrating at times because the reaction I would get from people and Mary Pat got this from going door to door, you know, they’d say, ‘Oh gosh, you’re governor Christie’s wife? We love him. He’s so smart. He’s so direct, he’s so blunt. We love him. We’re voting for Trump. But we love your husband. He’s amazing. We hope that he makes him vice president or attorney general.’ Mary Pat must have heard that dozens and dozens of times, so it was frustrating at times too.
We did some polling at one point in New Hampshire that 38 percent of Trump voters had us as their second choice, … so like, you know, it’s incredibly frustrating to think to yourself, ‘Wow, if this guy were not in the race, we’d win this thing.’ And I absolutely believe if Trump had not gotten into the race I think we would have won.
Convince me of that. You said you shared the same lane, but Trump picked up on something else too, the nationalism…
I don’t think that’s what won it for him. What won it for him was his toughness and his outsider nature. I don’t think the other stuff won it for him. I don’t think that’s what people were really reacting to. They were reacting to, they wanted someone down there who was no nonsense, wasn’t gonna take any crap and was going to whip Washington into shape. I think they felt like he was better equipped to do it than I was.
I really think that was it.
Not to say that Bridgegate didn’t have an effect because it did in terms of making the field larger. The field would not have been as large but for Bridgegate. I think a lot of those people would have deferred to me post- ’13 but for Bridgegate happening, and then I think they saw what they perceived as an opening. In the end, it turned out not to be an opening for them at all. But that’s what they perceived.
The whole experience was exciting, and difficult and frustrating. But there would be times that I was be standing at a town hall, like doing the pledge of allegiance, and I would say to myself, ‘Oh man, I’m running for president.’
There were moments when I would stand in a particular interesting local, like a typical New Hampshire town hall meeting. … In one of those things that I had watched for years as an observer, and now there you are. And all those people are listening to you, and they’re considering you.
And, you know, when we got to the end of December and we had the Union Leader endorsement and we were at second place in the polls, you know, I remember sitting with (his advisers) Mike DuHaime and Maria Comella right before New Years and all of us kind of marveling at, ‘Man, we are like within 30 days of making it back. Completely back.’ Because if we come in the top three or four in New Hampshire, we’re gonna make this a game. That’s what we really felt.
And the other thing two is the debates were incredibly exciting and, for me, I always felt like my best moments. In every one of those debates I got rated in the top two or three people, every one of them. They would energize me and they would energize my supporters.
So all that stuff is exhilarating and you hope building toward accomplishing what you want to accomplish.
But it’s awfully hard. You know, primary night in New Hampshire was really hard. And harder for me watching my kids reaction, you know, like, when we got the news of where we were gonna be, we were in a hotel room, I forget where exactly, and it was just like me and Mary Pat, the four kids, Mike, Maria and Bill (Palatucci, an adivser), my dad, and (Maryland Gov.) Larry Hogan.
And you know, my kids were very emotional. All of them were crying. And, you know, you then have this moment of: Who are you? Are you the person who just lost or are you the father? Like, how are you gonna conduct yourself? You gonna cry with them or are you gonna console them? And I decided, OK, I’m a father before I’m a candidate, so I’m like, go hug your kids, tell them it’s gonna be OK. And you know, when it ends that way, which it ends for everybody but one person, right? It’s really hard.
I can’t imagine what Hillary Clinton felt like on election night. I can’t imagine. It’s the same way that I spoke to Mitt Romney after he lost. I can’t imagine, to get that close. You know, you go through all of that, but I wouldn’t trade the experience.
No, I’m glad I did. I learned a lot. I felt like it made me a better governor. It made me a better communicator and it made me a smarter person, and all those things are good.
What do y’all think about his theory that he’d be president if not for Trump? Because I think the moment he went after Rubio in that fateful debate, it was over for him regardless. That said, I’ve always had a soft spot for Gov. Christie. I LOVE his toughness and his humor and his charisma.
But beyond what he said in this particular interview, I’m curious to know what y’all think would have happened if Trump had never entered the 2016 race. Who would our nominee have been? Rubio? Cruz? Who would have made it the whole way? And would they have had a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Hillary?