The outgoing governor of New Jersey is convinced he would be president right now had Donald Trump not run for the White House in 2016.
“It’s incredibly frustrating to think to yourself, ‘Wow, if this guy were not in the race, we’d win this thing,’” Chris Christie, the Republican governor who will vacate office in a few short days, said in an interview with NJ Advance Media.
According to Christie, his campaign’s internal polling numbers indicated that Trump’s presence in the large field of GOP presidential candidates made it difficult for him to stand out.
“And I absolutely believe if Trump had not gotten into the race, I think we would have won,” he said.
In the interview, Christie also complained of Trump continually bringing up the “Bridgegate” scandal during the primary campaign, claiming that he personally told the New York real estate magnate to quit doing it.
“You know that’s not true, so stop, OK? You want to say other stuff about me? Fine. But that’s out of bounds. Stop it,” he recalled telling Trump at the time.
The so-called “Bridgegate” scandal is in reference to the 2013 closure of several traffic lanes, orchestrated by Christie staffers in retribution to a local mayor who refused to endorse the governor.
While Christie was never found to be at fault for the incident, the scandal proved devastating to the once-popular Republican governor of New Jersey.
Christie enjoyed enormous popularity in his home state prior to his 2013 re-election, where he sailed to victory with over 60 percent of the total vote — despite being a GOP governor in a deep-blue state.
However, after the fallout from the Bridgegate scandal and other missteps tattering his once-sterling reputation, Christie’s approval rating tanked so low, he subsequently became the least popular governor in the country.
The last few years have been a long fall for Christie’s political career.
In 2012, Republican insiders begged Christie to join the GOP presidential primary race to no avail, with a group of fundraisers meeting with him in an effort to convince him otherwise, according to the The New York Times.
By the time 2016 came and the New Jersey governor entered the crowded primary fray, Christie was a clear underdog.
Lagging in poll numbers and with no sign of victory in any state, Christie eventually dropped his presidential bid. However, it’s what he did afterward that shocked the country and cemented his unpopularity with Garden State voters.
“I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States,” Christie said to stunned reporters in February 2016, making him the first major politician at the time to endorse Trump’s insurgent presidential bid.
“I’m happy to be on the Trump team, and I look forward to working with him.”
Local New Jersey papers torched him for the endorsement. “We’re fed up with his opportunism, we’re fed up with his hypocrisy,” wrote six different Gannett-owned newspapers at the time, according to CNN.
In the end, his endorsement of the man who went on to win the presidency may not have helped him further his own career. Christie was later ousted from the top position on Trump’s White House transition team in November 2016 and replaced with then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
It’s not clear if any White House position is waiting for him when he officially leaves office.
Through it all, Christie still believes he did well for his state, remarking in a recent interview that his job is tough, but he performed at a satisfactory level.
“I feel like I’ve done the job as well or better than anybody who’s ever had it,” Christie said in his waning days in office.
“Would there be little things I would do differently? Sure. But over the sweep of the eight years, I think when I leave, people are going to see just how hard this stuff is. This is a tough state to govern.”
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