Chris Christie photo

Remarks Announcing the End of Presidential Campaign Activities in Windham, New Hampshire

January 10, 2024

I appreciate you being here, I appreciate your support.

You know, we start these town halls the same way I've started them the same way ever since we were up at Saint Anselm's in June to tell you why, why we're in this race. And we're in this race to tell the truth. From the beginning, we've been in this race to tell the truth. Fact is that as we were watching this race come together. From where Mary Pat and I were sitting at home in New Jersey, we were really concerned that nobody would tell the truth in this race about what's really at stake. And no one would tell the truth about Donald Trump. No one would tell the truth about his divisiveness, his stoking of anger for his own benefit, him putting himself before the people of this country, myself included who gave him the honor of being President of United States from 2017 to 2021.

Personal ambition is a necessary element for any political candidate. You got to get out of bed in the morning and be able to really believe in your heart that you have something to offer to folks that's better and different. And so I have no argument with people who are involved in politics being ambitious. You need to have it, but it can't be what governs your decision making. Ambition can't be what makes you decide how to do things as a public figure. It could just be the fuel that gets you out of bed, that gets you in front of a room like this, that gets you on the phone raising money, that gets you working for people who you believe in and gets you working for yourself.

I made a political decision eight years ago. When I dropped out of the race in 2016, I looked at the polls and I decided that Donald Trump was going to be the nominee, and that since I'd known him for 15 years, that I can make him a better candidate and if he won, maybe a better president. I knew his flaws, but I also knew he was going to win the nomination. So I decided that I would get behind him and support him. I let the ambition get ahead and in control of the decision making. And after I figured that out, I promised myself and I promised my wife that I would never, ever do that again. And I'm not going to.

So for all the people who have been in this race, who have put their own personal ambition ahead of what's right. They will ultimately have to answer the same questions that I had to answer after my decision in 2016. Those questions don't ever leave. In fact, they're really stubborn. They stay. And so I know how I'm answering those questions. I've never believed that Donald Trump was a foregone conclusion as our nominee in this race, and I knew that the case had to be made against him. Now there are people in our party who are resigned the fact that he was going to be the nominee, resigned with the fact that the case didn't even need to be made because it would be a waste of time. They sat on the sidelines and all they did was voice their opposition in private, behind closed doors, quietly so no one could hear. And that's not leadership, everybody. That's cowardice. It's cowardice and it's hypocrisy. As a party we need to be willing to take the responsibility for the part we've played in getting here. Our country is angry. It's divided. It's accomplishing little and it is leaving our citizens to be exhausted.

You just look at what's happening just in the last few days. Good people who got into politics, I believe, for the right reasons. People like Senator John Barrasso, people like Congressman Tom Emmer stand up and endorse Donald Trump. They know better, I know they know better. People who continue to deny the results of the 2020 election, people in leadership in the House who go on TV and say that the people who attacked the Capitol on January 6th are hostages. I'll tell you who hostages are, the Israelis who are still being hidden in tunnels in Gaza against their will, out of no fault of their own. These people speak louder for the folks who attacked our Capitol on January 6th, than they are willing to stand up and speak for the people of Israel who are in tunnels in Gaza. That's not leadership. That's the ambition and cowardice which has outstripped their otherwise good judgment.

We want to change this party and if we want to change this country, it's hard work. It's not easy. From the moment I got into the race, the decision that I made was really simple. I would rather lose by telling the truth, then lie in order to win. And I feel no differently today, because this is a fight for the soul of our party and the soul of our country. Why have we resisted the calls to drop out of this race? Because unlike some of the other candidates, we're fighting for something bigger than ourselves. We're fighting for something bigger than self-interest. We're fighting for something bigger than the next title. I've got plenty of titles, enough titles to last me the rest of my life. U.S. Attorney, Governor, husband, father, son, brother. I had enough titles to last me for the rest of my life, we are fighting for something bigger.

It is something that conventional wisdom thinkers just can't possibly understand and so they've been saying for weeks and weeks and weeks, because some polls that I should drop out of the race, that I should get out for that reason. The smallness of the campaign's who spend more time arguing and worrying about who should get out of the race than they have spent going after the frontrunner. They spend all their time saying, oh, Christie should get out, Scott should get out, Pence should get out, Hutchinson should get out, Burgum should get out. They and their donors have a different target every day to try to minimize the attention to their own campaign and how their own campaign is a campaign that doesn't play to win. It's a campaign that plays to not offend.

The problems in our country, the divisions and influx at our border. The problems with our enormous debt. The failures of our education system. All of those things and much more will not be solved by people who are too afraid to talk about what the real problems are. If we ever have a hope of restoring this party to be a governing party of principles, we have to be willing to do the hard work and take some of the heat that comes with it. We have candidates in this race who have run away from forums where they were afraid they were going to be booed. I run into the forums where I know I'm going to be booed because being booed for telling the truth is a badge of honor.

I'm proud of everything we've said and done so far and I'm proud of all the people who have supported us and are willing to do what needs to be done to restore the soul of our country. Because in the end, all those issues that we've talked about at all the town halls, they're all really important, but they're no more important than the most important issue, and that is the character of the candidate. You don't know what's going to come across the next president's desk. You think you can predict it, but you can't. No one asked George W. Bush or Al Gore what they would do if four airliners were hijacked and flown into symbols of American power and killing thousands of Americans. No one asked them that in New Hampshire in 2000, but I was glad we had a man of character sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office when that attack came, because I knew George Bush would do everything he needed to do to protect this country and its people and put them first, not himself first. Imagine, just for a moment, if 9/11 had happened with Donald Trump behind the desk, the first thing he would have done was run to the bunker to protect himself. He would have put himself first before this country. And anyone who is unwilling to say that he is unfit to be president of the United States, is unfit themselves to be president of the United States.

Campaigns are run to win, that's why we do them. I see the chairman here in New Hampshire, he knows we run campaigns to win. My goal has never been to be just a voice against the hate and the division and the selfishness of what our party has become under Donald Trump. It's also been to win the nomination and defeat Joe Biden and restore our party and our country to a new place of hope and optimism in this country.

I've always said that if there came a point in time in this race where I couldn't see a path to accomplishing that goal. that I would get out. And it's clear to me tonight, that there isn't a path for me to win the nomination, which is why I'm suspending my campaign tonight for president of the United States. I know and I could see it from some of the faces here that I'm disappointing some people by doing this, people who believe in our message and believe in what we've been doing. I also know, though, it's the right thing for me to do. Because I want to promise you this, I am going to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump to ever be president of the United States again and that's more important than my own personal ambition.

So we have to decide now, we have to decide in the next ten months, who do we want to be as a country? We forget that people are walking thousands of miles still to get here. We talk about the problems and the border and there are problems, and we have to fix them and we have to secure our border, and we have to do it in a way that's smart and sensible and will work, because it's not right to have a porous southern border in this country. But I want you to remember something, those people who are coming over that border, many of them are walking hundreds, if not thousands of miles to get there, because here is where they see hope. Here is where they see freedom. Here is where they see success. Here is where they see that flag, which means for them, thousands of miles away in other countries all of those principles. We are still the indispensable nation for the rest of the world. We need to be the indispensable nation once again to each other. We need to believe in America as much as they believe in America. Right now, they believe in America in a way that this country angry, divided with selfish leadership who puts their own ambition first isn't doing for our country anymore.

We need to change that and every election is an opportunity to change it. We have people in this race who all they will do is tell you how bad everything is, how angry we should be. And there's certainly sufficient reason for anger at the failures of the leaders we've selected. But they're doing it not for that reason, it's not a moment of honesty and transparency, believe me, it's not. It's because they believe when we get angry, what we'll do is naturally relate to the angriest voice in the room.

Donald Trump wants you to be angry every day because he's angry. He wants you to be angry so that you'll relate to his anger, and then to vote for him. Please understand this, I have known him well for 22 years, more than anybody else in this race has known him. And I can promise you this, if you put him back behind the desk in the Oval Office, and a choice comes and a decision is needed to be made as to whether he puts himself first or he puts you first. How much more evidence do you need that he will pick himself? And if that is what we have there, then people are going to remain angry, remain divided and become even more exhausted than they are today.

The country that I think we should choose is the country that recognizes that our differences have always been our strength, not a weakness, not something to divide us in anger us. But our differences have been our strength, we've come from different countries at different times to different places, with different skills, with different religions. And yet only here can those people become an American. You can't go to Germany and become a German, you can't come to Great Britain and become British, but you can come here and become an American, a real part of this country. The moment we become a place where people no longer want to come in search of a better, freer, stronger nation, that will be the real problem that will be harder to solve. We back our allies around the world and they shouldn't have to think twice about having America's support, yet we have petty politics interfering with supporting freedom fighters in Ukraine. We have petty politics interfering with defending our friends in Israel. We have petty politics interfering with making sure Taiwan is armed to fight off the Chinese. They use the border as an excuse not to do those things. How about we have a country where we can do all those things? Because leadership aspires to something greater, not appealing to the lowest common denominator, which is what the leadership of the last decade and a half in the White House has done, including the current president.

We need a country that once again feels like everyone has a stake in what we're doing that we can bring people together, and it's hard, it's hard to do that. I did it for eight years in New Jersey, in a Democratic state with a Republican governor. It's hard because we have real disagreements, but those disagreements are small compared to the things that we have in common. But it takes effort, we have to work at it. We have to believe that the other person has a rightful place in our country. We have to believe that whether we agree with them or not, they got elected to and they have a right to have a voice and to be heard and to have a vote and to have it count.

This race has always been bigger than me. It's bigger than any one person if you do it the right way. I tried to change the conversation in this race. I tried to force a conversation in this race, a conversation about the real thing that's going on here. I stood on those debate stages, every one of them. The pundits in the media and the professional politicians who worked for other campaigns said, I wasn't going to make any of them. Before every debate, no Christie won't make this one, he'll only make this one, I made every one of them. But when I stood on there, I watched the other candidates arguing with each other as if the race was between us, pretending as if the guy who's in front and wasn't there, wasn't to be spoken about. Like Voldemort in the Harry Potter books, He Who shall not be named. Because they feared even bringing up his name would make him appear with his magical mystical powers to end their political careers. So they say ridiculous things. make ridiculous points.

And let me tell you, if Donald Trump becomes the nominee of this party, the moment that it happened was when Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis and Tim Scott and Mike Pence and Doug Burgum and Vivek Ramaswamy stood on that stage in Milwaukee in August and when we were asked, would you support someone who is a convicted felon to be president of the United States, they raised their hands. Give Ron credit, he had to look at everybody else first to see if he wanted to raise his hand, but then he raised his hand. Kind of like cheating off somebody paper in high school. They raised their hands and I did not and will not and I cannot countenance that behavior.

I want you to imagine for a second that Jefferson and Hamilton and Adams and Washington and Franklin were sitting here tonight. Do you think they could imagine that the country they risked their lives to create would actually be having a conversation about whether a convicted criminal should be president of the United States? I can't tell you how many people in New Hampshire have asked me why isn't there a law against that? The answer is because nobody ever thought that someone would have the audacity to run for president as a criminal and they never thought that any American electorate would actually support it. It's not their fault that they didn't put it in the Constitution, along with 35 years old and a natural born American citizen. They didn't think, let's throw in here and not a criminal, they thought maybe we'd get that part. We're going to show them now whether we do or we don't in the next ten months. Do we get it or don't we?

I'm out here saying what I've been saying for the last eight months because I didn't want to take the chance that you might not get it. I want it to be the voice that was telling you. This is unacceptable. We deserve better. And now there's some people who want the courts to save us. It's not up to the courts to save us. I remember what Benjamin Franklin said. I'm sure many of you do, too. When he was walking down the street in Philadelphia after the Constitutional Convention, a woman approached him on the street and said, Mr. Franklin, what kind of government did you give us and he said to the woman, "A republic, if you can keep it." Benjamin Franklin's words were never more relevant in America than they are right now. The last time they were this relevant was the Civil War. Which of course, we know was caused by slavery.

The last time those words were that relevant back in those days and now we are confronted 160 years later, with that question again. A republic, if we can keep it. It's up to you. I've been running ads all over New Hampshire, ending it saying, it's up to you and it is. It's not up to me, I've done everything I can and it's not about me. The other candidates, some of them have made it about them. It's okay, but when you forget that the privilege to serve in public office is not about you, but about the people who give you the privilege, then you lose your way.

And so tonight is a sad night for me and for Mary Pat, because, believe it or not, we really love the people in the state. We loved being here. Both of our experiences in 2016 and 2024 in coming to New Hampshire and holding two hour town hall meetings and answering every question has been one of the great joys and honors of our lives. The relationships we've made here have been lifelong relationships now that we're going to keep going forward, no matter what else we do with our lives and our careers. I look around this room and see so many people who have been to so many of these meetings and have been so wonderfully supportive of us. I'd start to name names, but then I'd screw that up and I'd forget somebody who was really important to us, so I'm not going to do that. You know who you are. And you know how much we treasure our relationships with you.

But I will mention one person, because she texted me either last night or this morning and she said to me, please, please don't drop out. We need you. And that was our friend Toni Pappas. And because I had decided at that moment in my heart, and so had Mary Pat, that we were going to I didn't respond to you because I didn't want to lie to you. But I turned to Mary Pat and I handed her the phone and showed her and I said, these are the kind of people that were fighting for. The people who believe that what we have to offer is something important and special, and that what we're talking about matters. And it meant a lot to me to get that text from you, Toni, because I know that you've been through a lot of campaigns here in this state and to hear from you that you wanted me to stay, made me feel guilty, but also made me feel wonderful. And you know, both those feelings can exist at the same time. And I thank you for that and I pointed out that Toni is represented by a lot of people in this room who we've heard from over the last few weeks and we appreciate it very much. We appreciate your friendship, your hospitality, your warmth, your questions, your challenges and everything that you provided to us in this state both eight years ago and over the last eight months.

I'll just end with this. I believe and have always believed that this is the greatest country that the world has ever seen and I still believe that today. The phrase Make America Great Again has always offended me, because it implied that America wasn't great. America is great, it was great long before those red hats showed up and it will be great long after they are consigned to history. This country is a great country and the only thing that stops us from having it be greater is our willingness to work hard enough to make it greater. It is not easy to stand up and fight for what we believe in when the wind is blowing in our face. It is not easy to stand up and fight the loudest voice in the room. It isn't easy to look at someone who we know is unfit and unable to represent what the heart of this country really is and tell them, thank you for your service, it's time for you to go home. But, that's what we need to do in the next ten months if we are going to keep in concert with the spirit of this country.

I don't know how anybody could want to be in the United States if they don't love America and you cannot love America if you don't love every American. Love the Americans who look different than you. Love the Americans who speak different than you. Love the Americans who think different than you, love the Americans who believe and have faith that is different than yours. We have had Donald Trump and other candidates in this race say they don't want people coming to this country if they're not of our religion. We don't have a religion in America. Our Constitution is founded on there being no national religion. Yet we're abandoning that to by continuing to respond positively to the siren song of someone who would actually say something like that as a candidate for president, the United States met to only divide.

If we don't stand for those principles, we will be the generation that gave this country away. I refuse. When I got into this race, I refused and tonight, even though I'm suspending this campaign. I am not going away and my voice is not going away. And I am going to continue to say all the things that I've said and what other platforms, whatever platforms are permitted to me as we go forward, the very same things and new things that I'm sure I will have the opportunity to comment on as we go forward. Because I'm not going to be part of the generation that gives this country away. I am not going to be part of a generation who willingly stands by and says it's too hard, he's too loud, he's too strong. That's what defeat looks and sounds like. And the only country that can defeat America is America. And the only people that can stop it are us.

So I thank you for the enormous honor. To have the chance to run for president of the United States again. I thank you for your time to listen to what I've had to say and to give it thought and consideration. I thank you for the opportunity to come into your homes, into your neighborhoods, into your schools, into your churches and to be able to make the case for the kind of America that I hope we have. And I thank you most of all for your attendance at these events and your questions for continuing to renew my faith in America and Americans. I love this country because my heart is open to every American. And every person who cares about making this a better place. And so while I'm disappointed by the results of this election, I will never be disappointed by the opportunity and experience that I've had. And I promise you that in whatever way Mary Pat and I can figure out, we are going to continue the fight for you and for this country in a way that will make you proud that we met, because I'm proud to have met all of you through this process. So thank you for coming tonight and thank you for all your support. I appreciate it very much.

Chris Christie, Remarks Announcing the End of Presidential Campaign Activities in Windham, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives