Christie calls Sununu endorsement of Haley ‘disappointing’ but ‘doesn’t change my strategy’

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he’s “disappointed” that he didn’t land the endorsement of New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu in the Republican presidential nomination race.

But Christie said that Sununu’s backing former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP presidential nominating calendar “doesn’t change my strategy here one bit.”

And he pushed back on Sununu’s suggestion that Christie and Haley’s other Republican White House rivals should get out of the race, telling Fox News Digital that “I’m not going anywhere, so let’s be really clear about that.”

Christie made his comments as he took questions from reporters following a town hall Wednesday night in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Christie returned to the Granite State on the same day that Sununu was continuing to campaign with Haley across New Hampshire after endorsing her the previous evening.

SUNUNU ON HALEY’S 2024 RIVALS: ‘I THINK THEY SHOULD ALL GET OUT’

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire (right) endorses former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, at a campaign event in Manchester N.H. on Dec. 12, 2023  (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser)

Sununu, a popular Republican governor who’s won election and re-election to four two-year terms as governor in the crucial northeastern battleground state, had said for weeks that his endorsement would come down to Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Christie, who he’s known for over a decade.

Haley has been rising in the polls the past couple of months and is currently in second place in the surveys in New Hampshire, far behind former President Donald Trump, who remains the commanding front-runner for the GOP nomination as he makes his third straight White House run.

‘WE’RE ALL IN’ – SUNUNU BACKS HALEY IN MAJOR 2024 ENDORSEMENT

Christie, who’s repeating his strategy from his unsuccessful 2016 Republican presidential run of placing all his chips in New Hampshire, stands in third place in Granite State polls, a couple of points behind Haley.

“I would have been happy to accept his support,” Christie said of Sununu.

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie says 'it’s disappointing' he didn't get New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu's endorsement but 'it doesn’t change my strategy here one bit.'

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, headlines a town hall in Londonderry, New Hampshire on Dec. 13, 2023.  (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser)

But he downplayed the significance of the Sununu endorsement, arguing that “I would have known exactly what it meant. It meant one vote.  And it would have been nice to hang around with him, and we could have done a buddy show like he and Nikki are doing, but in the end, these voters are not going to be told by anybody who to vote for.”

“I’m disappointed. I’m not going to be stupid about it. It’s disappointing not to get it but on the other hand, it doesn’t change my strategy here one bit,” he highlighted.

CHRISTIE UPS HIS GAME IN A KEY PRIMARY STATE

Asked after endorsing Haley on Tuesday if Christie should drop out of the race, Sununu told Fox News that “I’m behind Nikki Haley. I think they should all get out frankly, including former President Trump. I think everyone should kind of clear the way.”

But he acknowledged “they’re going to keep campaigning.”

A day later, Fox News Digital asked Christie about Sununu’s comments.

“He should know better,” Christie responded. “It’s not his job to tell anybody when to get out. He can support whomever he likes, but it’s not his job to tell anybody when it’s time to get out of the race. That’s an individual choice to make and I’m not going anywhere, so let’s be really clear about that.”

A night earlier, Sununu told Fox News that he had not given either Christie or DeSantis a heads-up that he was going to endorse Haley.

“I learned about it on-line,” Christie told Fox News. “That’s not the way I would have done it but everybody has to account for their own sense of what represents integrity and what doesn’t.”

Christie spoke with reporters after taking questions for more than an hour and a half from the crowd in a jam-packed American Legion post in this Republican-leaning town.

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The former New Jersey governor took aim at Haley early and often during the town hall, starting with what he called her “word salad” answers when it comes to the combustible issue of abortion. Later in the town hall he accused her of “political pandering.”

“The voters in this state have a right to know where she stands. Not just her happy talk. They have a right to know where she stands,” Christie told reporters after the town hall.

And he charged that Haley’s “unwilling to do it. She wants to be everything to everybody on that issue [abortion]. It’s too important an issue, it’s too personal an issue, and it’s too serious an issue to not answer it directly. I’ve answered it directly. She hasn’t.”

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie says 'it’s disappointing' he didn't get New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu's endorsement but 'it doesn’t change my strategy here one bit.'

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Chris Christie (center), a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, and his wife Mary Pat (right), join the Salvation Army for bell ringing at a supermarket in Londonderry, New Hampshire, on Dec. 13, 2023 (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser)

Sununu’s much coveted endorsement was a disappointment for DeSantis, but he’s concentrating most of his time and resources in Iowa, whose Jan. 15 caucuses kick off the GOP nominating calendar. 

But it’s much more of a setback for Christie, who along with Haley is aiming for a strong finish in New Hampshire.

Veteran Republican strategist Matthew Bartlett noted that “Christie is planting the flag in New Hampshire and to have the governor of the state, who clearly likes him and has an affinity for him, go with someone else and affirm that someone else has a much better pathway, if that’s your only state, it’s almost impossible, not just in New Hampshire but nationwide, to get the nomination.”

“He’s got to look in the mirror,” Bartlett said of Christie.

Neil Levesque, the executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, said that the Sununu endorsement “does not help Chris Christie, and it is certainly a blow to his campaign.”

But he added that “I don’t think it changes the fact that he’s going to campaign here in New Hampshire and seek the votes, and you never know what’s going to happen.”

State Rep. Wayne MacDonald, a former state GOP chair who heads Christie’s steering committee in New Hampshire, told Fox News that “certainly we would much prefer to have Gov. Sununu on board with us than with Gov. Haley.” 

But he emphasized that “endorsements are nice but I think there’s a lot of hype attached to them. With all due respect to Gov. Sununu, I don’t think this is a game-changer.”

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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