On the Trail (from Iowa): Christie’s departure expected to give Haley a bigger boost

Republican presidential candidate former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces he is dropping out of the race during a town hall campaign event Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Windham, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Republican presidential candidate former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announces he is dropping out of the race during a town hall campaign event Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Windham, N.H. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Robert F. Bukaty

Nikki Haley campaign signs stand in a snowbank in Waukee, Iowa.

Nikki Haley campaign signs stand in a snowbank in Waukee, Iowa. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

Nikki Haley takes a photo with voters in Ankeny, Iowa.

Nikki Haley takes a photo with voters in Ankeny, Iowa. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

Ron DeSantis takes a photo with a supporter in Ankeny, Iowa.

Ron DeSantis takes a photo with a supporter in Ankeny, Iowa. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

Snow covers the ground in Ankeny, Iowa.

Snow covers the ground in Ankeny, Iowa. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley departs after speaking at Toast in Ankeny, Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley departs after speaking at Toast in Ankeny, Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

For the Valley News

Published: 01-13-2024 12:38 PM

How much Chris Christie’s 2024 exit is impacting the race for the Republican presidential nomination depends on where you are.

On the day after he dropped out, the candidate who benefited most from the former New Jersey governor’s departure – former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – didn’t mention the news as she spoke at a campaign event in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa’s capital and largest city.

Christie brought his bid for the White House to a close on Wednesday evening, as he spoke at a campaign event in Windham, New Hampshire. Just as he did in his first presidential campaign eight years ago, Christie had placed all his chips on the Granite State.

“It’s clear to me tonight that there isn’t a path for me to win the nomination,” Christie said as he suspended his campaign.

Christie, a long-shot for the nomination in a race dominated by former President Donald Trump, in recent weeks had faced increased calls from fellow Republicans and some voters to end his bid to give Haley a boost as she aims to close the gap with Trump. Haley has soared in recent months, catching up to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for a distant second place to Trump in Iowa and national surveys. She’s surged in polls in New Hampshire, standing alone in second place and narrowing the gap with Trump.

Christie, a one-time ally of the former president, became one of the most vocal Trump critics in the GOP.

“This is the right thing for me to do,” Christie said. “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 ambitions.”

As he dropped out, Christie took some shots at Haley.

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Ahead of his announcement, Christie was heard on a microphone, apparently without knowing it, saying that Haley was “gonna get smoked by Trump.”

“She’s not up for this,” he added.

Christie also took two digs at Haley during his speech.

He mentioned the Civil War, saying “which we know was caused by slavery.”

Haley sparked controversy late last month when failing to mention slavery when answering a question about the causes of the Civil War. Both Christie and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another top rival for the nomination, had repeatedly criticized Haley for her omission.

Christie once again criticized Haley, who along with nearly all the other presidential candidates on the stage at the first GOP primary debate in August, raised their hands when asked if they’d support Trump as their party’s nominee even if he was convicted in court. Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson were the only two candidates not to raise their hands.

After her event in Ankeny, Haley acknowledged speaking to Christie after his announcement.

“I did talk to him [Christie] this morning and just told him I appreciated his … commitment to this race,” she said. “But no, we didn’t ask him for an endorsement.”

Christie’s departure will likely have little impact in Iowa, where Monday’s caucuses lead off the Republican presidential nominating calendar. Christie never campaigned in the state this cycle, shunning Iowa’s conservative Republican electorate and instead concentrating on New Hampshire, where independent voters and moderates have long played a crucial role in the state’s storied primary.

A poll from Suffolk University indicated Christie’s departure had a negligible impact on the race in Iowa, with Haley gaining just two points. But if she edges DeSantis on Monday, those two points could be crucial.

Weather appears to be a much bigger story right now in the Hawkeye State, with blizzard conditions and nearly a foot of new snow on Friday bringing campaign trail activity almost entirely to a halt.

Haley canceled her in-person events and held tele-town halls. The rough road conditions didn’t stop DeSantis from making it to his first event on Friday.

“I’m really impressed that so many people came out, given the weather,” DeSantis said to the crowd that came to hear him and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds – who’s backing him – speak at a meeting of the Northside Conservatives Club.

Minutes later, DeSantis told a reporter that “we want people to be safe” in the tough weather conditions. But he pledged “I’m going to show up,” and emphasized that with the clock ticking toward the caucuses, “I’m going to use every minute I can to be able to win votes.”

An hour later his remaining four stops in northern, central and eastern Iowa, which were being organized by Never Back Down, his aligned super PAC, were postponed.

While the snow is forecast to ease up over the weekend, temperatures are expected to plunge below zero and stay in the negatives through Tuesday, which could lower turnout at Monday night’s caucuses.

As for Christie’s departure, it will have a much bigger impact in New Hampshire, where he was polling between 9 and 12 percent in the latest surveys. And those same surveys suggested that many – but not all – of Christie’s supporters will flock to Haley.

But sources in Christie’s political orbit say not to expect any endorsement in the primary battle anytime soon.