Chris Christie has arguably been Donald Trump’s most outspoken Republican critic.
The former New Jersey Governor and the former president have been engaged in a constant war of words for months.
In the past week alone, Christie called Trump a “coward,” to which he was called a “a sad, pathetic slob” in response.
A debate between the two was indeed to dominate social media and television broadcasts for days to come.
However, Trump opted not to attend the Milwaukee debates, instead settling for a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson instead.
As usual, Christie was quick to respond. “If you qualify for the stage, which Trump has, not showing up is completely disrespectful to the Republican Party, who made you their nominee twice, and to the Republican voters, whose support you’re asking for again,” he told reporters on Friday.
Trump In Absentia
Given how only snippets of a lengthy debate will be shared on social media, the likelihood of a viral confrontation between Trump and Christie was far from impossible.
“They have been taunting each other back and forth on Twitter and campaign town halls, so it robs Christie of a big moment that he is looking for if Trump doesn’t show up onstage,” Republican strategist Ryan Williams told the New York Times. “You can use the debate to get the anti-Trump message out that he’s pushing, but you’re going to lack that viral moment if the two of them aren’t looking at each other face to face.”
Nevertheless, the aftermath of the Republican debate and the Carlson interview could still produce fireworks.
Whether Trump will watch the events in Milwaukee remains unclear, but his staffers will undoubtedly be feeding him reports which he may use for political arguments on Truth Social.
Likewise, the nature of publishing an interview on X, formerly known as Twitter, allows Christie to promptly respond to any swipes from the former president within hours of the broadcast.
Chris Christie’s New Focus
While attacking Trump has been a focus of his campaign so far, Chris Christie’s strengths are not to be underestimated.
His track record as a Republican governor in a Democratic state may convince moderate voters to support him, and he will be the only candidate on Wednesday’s stage who has participated in a Republican primary debate before.
It’s likely he will also use his anti-Trump stance to criticize his opponents. At a town hall event in Miami on Friday, Christie chastised state Gov. Ron DeSantis calling him to “get the hell out of the race” if he intends to defend Trump.
During his surprise visit to Ukraine earlier this month, Christie reiterated that Trump’s absence “doesn’t change my perspective or my tactical approach,” adding, “Because if he’s not there, it just means two things. One, he’s afraid to be on the same debate stage and defend his record. And two, you know, this is a guy who, by not showing up, just gives me more time. So, it’s OK. Either way, I win.”
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events, including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.