Chris Christie is dropping out of the presidential race, according to sources close to his campaign, ending a bid that focused almost solely on criticizing Donald Trump and making the case that the former president should not be the Republican nominee. 

Christie, the former New Jersey governor who famously endorsed Trump after ending his own 2016 presidential bid, was by far the most persistent critic of the former president on the 2024 campaign trail. But in a Republican party where Trump has maintained his status as the apparent frontrunner, Christie’s narrowly focused bid always seemed to be a long-shot effort.

The turning point for Christie, who staked his entire presidential primary campaign on a strong showing in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary, came when he failed to win the coveted endorsement of the state’s GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, who instead backed former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

It also became clear that Christie’s path to the GOP nomination after the Jan. 23 New Hampshire primary was essentially doomed. He was not able to make the ballot in Maine, a Super Tuesday state, and did not have a substantial ground game in any state outside of New Hampshire.

Anti-Trump Republicans, including Sununu, began calling on Christie to get out and help consolidate support behind Haley. On CNN Tuesday, Sununu said, “a vote for Christie is a vote being taken away from Nikki Haley and prevents delivering that loss to the former president.”

Still, Christie refused, often saying he would be willing to drop out and potentially endorse Nikki Haley if the former U.N. ambassador came out clearly, in Christie’s view, against Trump and publicly committed to not taking a position in a Trump White House.

“I will be happy to get out of the way for someone who is actually running against Donald Trump,” Christie said to voters at a town hall in Rochester, New Hampshire, this week who pushed Christie on his chances in the state. “If there was someone else, anyone else, in this race who are willing to take him on, I’d be happy to work with that person [to defeat Donald Trump].”

Since announcing his presidential bid back in June, Christie’s campaign staff has remained small, with most working remotely and without a physical office in New Hampshire. Christie relied on TV appearances and small events in the Granite State, typically hosted by the super PAC supporting him.

The latest ad, titled “The Truth,” indirectly targeted Nikki Haley. “Most of the other candidates in this race are all trying to look into people’s eyes and figure out what they want to hear,” Christie said in the ad. Christie’s campaign positioned him as a candidate who would tell the “truth,” even on the hard issues like Trump’s fitness to be president or a national abortion ban.

Christie and his political operation attempted to evoke the straight talk approach of the late John McCain in New Hampshire and replicate the late Arizona GOP senator’s wins in the 2000 and 2008 state primaries. But the Republican Party has changed dramatically since McCain ran nationwide.

Complicating Christie’s push was the reality that in 2016, New Hampshire gave Trump his first primary victory. By capturing the state primary that year, Trump began to build momentum that ultimately delivered him the GOP nomination and a stunning upset in the 2016 presidential election.

Christie backed Trump once again in 2020, but as a 2024 candidate, he stressed his abundant criticism of Trump as the nation reckoned with the former president’s failed attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

That effort was complicated by Haley, who has managed to build a coalition that includes former Trump supporters and critics of the former president. Undeclared voters in New Hampshire, who represent a major segment of the state’s registrations, may cast ballots in the Republican primary. In essence, that helps make New Hampshire the first state where Trump critics have a sizable chance to challenge the former president’s ambitions of returning to the White House.

Many Christie campaign events in the state often had attendees from neighboring Maine and Massachusetts, and, while that’s not unusual for New Hampshire, they voiced to reporters — and to Christie himself — that they were drawn to Christie for his criticism of the former president, but they would have no impact on the race in New Hampshire.

Recent polling from CBS News showed Haley polling a strong second behind Trump in New Hampshire, bolstering the pressure Christie was facing to drop out if he really wanted to help try to stop Trump from winning the GOP nomination.

Christie struggled when he ran in New Hampshire’s 2016 presidential primary and only ended up winning around 7% of the vote.

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