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Christie to join growing field of presidential candidates vying for GOP nomination

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Chris Christie declares his campaign for president today.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

He's a former New Jersey governor who has a very particular history with Donald Trump. In 2016, Christie became one of the first mainstream Republicans to endorse Trump for president. He even led Trump's presidential transition team until Trump fired him. He's been a critic since then.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS CHRISTIE: If we put him back in the White House, the reruns will be worse than the original show was.

INSKEEP: And today in New Hampshire, Christie joins the Republican race that Trump is leading.

MARTIN: With us now to tell us more about all this is Josh Rogers, political reporter for New Hampshire Public Radio. Josh, good morning.

JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: Good morning to you.

MARTIN: So Chris Christie has pitched himself as a candidate willing to take on Donald Trump. How compelling does that sound for the voters in New Hampshire?

ROGERS: Well, we'll see exactly what Chris Christie says tonight. But obviously, taking out Donald Trump, a figure of durability under some pretty extreme situations, is probably easier said than done. But Christie, unlike some other candidates getting into the race, is, you know, a known quantity to lots of Republican voters in New Hampshire.

MARTIN: Say more about that. Why is he well known in New Hampshire?

ROGERS: Well, I mean, it may have been out of sort of desperation, but in 2016, he basically focused his entire campaign here. He did the things that you purportedly need to do to be successful here. He started early. He did a lot of retail campaigning. He took whatever question voters cared to ask him. But he did end up finishing sixth here and then dropped out of the race. And while there are anti-Trump Republicans you can find who like the idea of Christie mounting a kind of kamikaze candidacy, you know, bent on ending Trump at whatever cost to himself, I'm not, at this point, finding many Republicans pining for Christie's entrance into this race as a candidate they see as a plausible winner.

MARTIN: Another Republican who has been in the conversation over 2024 is the governor from your state, the state of New Hampshire...

ROGERS: Yes.

MARTIN: ...Chris Sununu. It seems that he'd been considering a run as an alternative to Trump, but he now says he's out. What can you tell us about his decision-making there?

ROGERS: Well, Governor Sununu spent the last six months or so really riding the circuit of Republican events, making the rounds on talk shows. And, you know, there's no real sense he truly caught on with Republican voters. He has definitely been successful here. He's in his fourth term and is popular with a range of voters, but says now instead of running in 2024, he'll work to steer the Republican Party away from Trumpism and towards what Governor Sununu believes would be a more successful path, particularly in general elections.

You know, it ought to be said Sununu is kind of a latecomer to this point of view. He did back Trump in 2016 and 2020 and has said that if Republicans nominate him again, he'll be voting for him. So there's that. And, you know, despite Sununu's popularity with most voters here in New Hampshire and a generally conservative record, lots of Republican activists in New Hampshire don't much trust him. Some see him as too moderate. Some see him as too self-interested. And so we'll see how that goes.

MARTIN: Josh, finally, you said that you had not run into Republicans pining for Chris Christie's entrance into the race, but what are they pining for?

ROGERS: Well, voters certainly are saying they want Joe Biden gone and are excited with the potential of electing a Republican. But as Governor Sununu noted, Trump's numbers remain higher here and elsewhere than he and others expected at this point.

MARTIN: That's Josh Rogers of New Hampshire Public Radio. Josh, thank you.

ROGERS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000 and serves as NHPRâââ

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