Democrats for Christie

A perennial fantasy has a new standard bearer.

POLITICO (“Chris Christie is actually gaining support for president. From Democrats.“)

Chris Christie is running away with support from at least one major voting bloc in his presidential bid.

The only problem is it’s among the least important groups in the Republican primary.

The former New Jersey governor has seen his popularity soar with Democrats. Whereas Democrats once considered him a bully, a threat and an opportunistic apologist for Donald Trump, they now can’t get enough of his new Trump-bashing persona.

“He’s probably the only Republican I would vote for,” said Joe Daly, a Democrat from Warner, N.H., who voted for Biden in 2020 but isn’t sold on a second term. Of those on the right, Christie is “the most reasonable, rational alternative to crazy Donald Trump.”

Christie’s crossover success in New Jersey politics — and what made him a national star circa 2012 — was largely based on his ability to work with Democrats to notch significant policy victories. He aggressively courted Democrats along the way to his reelection in 2013, so much so that his top aides choked access to the George Washington Bridge — the world’s busiest — to punish a local Democratic mayor for not backing Christie (he was not found to have any involvement).

But a decade later, it’s Democrats who are among the biggest boosters of Christie’s presidential bid.

A July New York Times and Siena College poll found 14 percent of Democrats would be most likely to vote for Christie as the Republican nominee — support that soared to 24 percent with Democratic “leaners” included. That’s higher than Christie’s polled in any survey of likely GOP primary voters since he entered the race in June.


The dyed-in-the-wool Republican who once called Barack Obama a “feckless weakling” while running for the 2016 presidential nomination is now courting any voters who will listen in his redux bid. He went on a podcast hosted by former Obama aides and another co-hosted by veteran Democratic strategist James Carville. Former MSNBC host Chris Matthews deemed Christie “the liberal pinup boy right now” and New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote how “amusing” it is to watch Christie rip former President Donald Trump while other candidates pledge to support him if he again wins the nomination.

Even Christie’s campaign-trail pitch — the part that’s not about keeping Trump out of the White House — plays up his cross-party appeal as a Republican who worked across the aisle governing New Jersey.

It’s a message ostensibly aimed at capturing Republican and independent voters looking for a return to a seemingly bygone era of politicking — when “compromise” wasn’t a “dirty word” and when presidents didn’t seemingly support their followers’ calls to execute their No. 2.

But Christie is picking up support from Democrats in the process — something of a career déjà vu for a politician who romped to a second term as New Jersey governor with Democratic support. Interviews with a dozen Democrats across Christie’s recent campaign events in New Hampshire reveal clear interest in Christie, who placed sixth there in the 2016 primary. And many of these former Joe Biden voters are considering switching their party affiliation to vote for Christie in the first GOP presidential primary.

Depending on how “many” is being defined, the lede is being buried here.

Christie’s campaign claims it’s not directly targeting Democrats — or even giving the across-the-aisle support much thought.

But his team isn’t rejecting it either.

“If Democrats want to donate or vote for him, we’re open to that,” a campaign spokesperson, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, told POLITICO. The spokesperson added that Democratic interest in the moderate Republican should be “expected” given Christie’s background leading a blue state.

It has been a perennial fantasy of political pundits that, in years where an incumbent President running for re-election renders one party’s primary moot, those voters could cross over en masse and strategically impact the other party’s nominee. Depending on the version, this can be designed to ratfuck the opposition party by choosing an unelectable candidate or to nudge them into choosing a least-bad potential winner.

That’s a hell of a collective action problem but it would be especially tempting this year with Trump considered not only the most likely winner but also the most dangerous—both in terms of his unique ability to rally the base and because his re-election would be so disastrous.

Aside from the impact on down-ballot races, the main downside this cycle is that Trump’s support among likely GOP primary voters is so overwhelming that it may well be impossible to get enough Democrats voting to change the outcome.

Christie is attracting Democratic attention partly as a byproduct of how he’s running his campaign. If 100 New Hampshire town halls was the hallmark of his 2016 bid, television appearances are the cornerstone of his 2024 campaign.

That strategy — getting the former ABC News talking head on any cable news show, radio program or podcast that will have him, regardless of any ideological tilt — is aimed at reaching the broadest swath of potential Republican primary voters. But it’s also putting him directly in front of Democrats.

And those television appearances are translating to on-the-ground interest in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state where Christie is staking his White House hopes for a second time.

Christie’s narrow path to success in New Hampshire cuts through independents who make up the largest share of voters in this open-primary state and who are likely to play a significant role in the GOP contest without a serious draw on the Democratic side.

But there are Democrats who are angry with Biden for pushing to demote New Hampshire in the party’s primary lineup in favor of South Carolina, a more diverse state that propelled him to the nomination in 2020. They’re worried about the incumbent’s age and faculties. And they’re in some cases looking at Christie as an alternative.

Here, the passive voice is doing a lot of work. Are there Democrats in New Hampshire angry that Biden took away their long-held special status? I’m sure. Angry enough to vote for Christie over Biden in a general election? I can’t imagine there are many.

“There is a real possibility that a decent amount of Democrats change party to be able to participate in the [GOP] primary,” Chris Sununu, the Republican New Hampshire governor, said in an interview after introducing Christie at an August town hall at the Salem-Derry Elks Lodge.

“But to be fair, it’s really about the current independents. It’s a much, much more significant thing for a Democrat to come forward to the Republican primary,” Sununu said. “I don’t think that’ll be a significant opportunity to go after just yet.”

Were Christie to somehow become the Republican nominee, there are surely a lot of #NeverTrump Republicans who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Trump who would consider rallying back to their party. (Of course, there are also some MAGA types who would sit the election out.) Similarly, I’m sure there are a lot of Independents who found Trump repugnant who would give Christie a hard look. Maybe there are even some soft Democrats who would consider the (then) 62*-year-old over an 82-year-old Biden.

Again, it’s just about inconceivable that Christie can get enough Democrats and Independents in the early primaries to become the clear One Alternative to Trump. But, hey, there is anecdotal evidence that some number of Democrats are Christie-curious.

Interviews with Democrats at Christie’s campaign events reveal interest in the New Jersey Republican that’s rooted in everything from his relatively younger age — he’s about to turn 61, while Trump is 77 and Biden is 80 — and his near single-minded mission to destroy his longtime friend-turned-foe Trump.

Michele and Bill Edwards from Salem said they were lifelong Democrats before unenrolling last election cycle. Michele Edwards said she’s shopping for younger options to keep Trump out of the White House.

“I can’t even believe I’m saying this,” she said, in awe at her own consideration of Christie. “If you saw how many Barack Obama and Biden signs [I had] in my life.”

Debra Newell, a Concord Democrat, is among the former Biden voters concerned with the president’s age. And while she’s not sold on the idea of voting for a Republican, Christie stands out.

“His whole presentation was awesome,” Newell said after Christie’s town hall at the Concord VFW in July. But, she added, “I really wish he had stood up to Trump a long time ago.”

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? Christie was among the biggest Trump critics on the 2016 Republican debate state (although, ironically, he’s more famous for having obliterated Marco Rubio). But, ever the savvy pol, he was among the first to endorse him once it became clear he was the inevitable nominee. So, while Democrats may be enjoying his pugnacious attacks on Trump, that past would surely come back to bite him in the ass in the general.

While Democratic support could boost Christie in New Hampshire, pollsters and GOP strategists say it could backfire in the long term.

“It’s difficult to gain traction for the Republican nomination if too much of your support is coming from non-Republicans,” Siena pollster Don Levy said.

I mean, he’s not gaining traction for the Republican nomination now.

Some of Christie’s own supporters are warning him against trying to openly court Democrats, saying such a strategy would run the risk of alienating Republican voters in the GOP primary.

“They’re Democrats for a reason,” former New Hampshire GOP Chair Wayne MacDonald, who chaired Christie’s 2016 New Hampshire campaign, said in an interview. “It would be misconstrued, misinterpreted, as a question of Governor Christie’s party loyalty — and he is a good Republican, he’s a loyal Republican.”

It’s not clear what that means in the age of Trump.

But there’s precedent for Republican campaigns to target Democrats in New Hampshire’s primaries. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000, for instance, zeroed in on Democratic veterans by sending them letters from veteran leaders in the state. The campaign converted roughly 9,000 votes, according to Mike Dennehy, a longtime New Hampshire Republican operative who worked on McCain’s White House bids, and won the state’s primary.

Still, Dennehy said, that operation wasn’t fruitful enough to try to court Democrats again in 2008. Christie, he said, could similarly find it’s not “worth the time and effort” in 2024.

“It would not be a smart strategy for the campaign to target Democrats without a serious hook,” Dennehy said.

Honestly, any port in a storm at this point. But there’s just no realistic path to the nomination for Christie—or anyone else not named Trump.


*It turns out he turns 61 tomorrow.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. wr says:

    Yes, Democrats will be rallying around the man who single-handedly killed the desperately-needed tunnel under the Hudson to give that money to his donors in the form of tax breaks for the super-rich. And closed down a freeway during rush hour to punish a mayor who didn’t kiss his ass enough.

    Christie slunk out of office with a 13% approval rating. And everything he did to earn that would come up in ad after ad if he ever made it into a general.

    The only thing this article proves is that a Politico reporter desperate for clicks can find a dozen people willing to say exactly what he needs them to.

  2. Kylopod says:

    @wr: He was also the first sitting governor to endorse Trump for president, and was Trump’s first choice for running mate until Jared talked him out of it due to the bad blood between him and Christie (who locked up his dad). Even well into Trump’s presidency there are clips of Christie describing himself as a friend and supporter. He helped Trump with debate prep in 2020 and was reportedly the one who advised him to keep interrupting Biden in order to bring out Biden’s stutter.

    The question is how successful the media would become in trying to throw all those things down the memory hole and rebuild their fawning pre-2014 image of him.

  3. Fog says:

    We’re still in the silly season when it comes to polls and pundits. Any silly thing to enable another day’s opinion page. Anything to gin up outrage somewhere or another while ignoring a very simple truth. A vote for Biden is a vote to keep the country going much as before. A vote for Trump (the apple of Putin’s eye) or any other MAGA candidate, is a vote to end our historic role as the arsenal of democracy, leader of the Free World, and the world’s “last, best hope.” It will hang Ukraine and the rest of the world’s democracies out to dry and leave them to Putin and Xi’s tender mercies. The USA would become the next Russia with fabulously wealthy grifters and an impoverished population. Great again my ***.

  4. Charley in Cleveland says:

    I get the feeling that interns at every media outlet are being assigned the task of finding Democrats who will say they are uncomfortable with Biden’s age.

  5. DK says:

    @Charley in Cleveland:
    Red Wave 2022!!11!

  6. charontwo says:

    This kind of strategic voting works only in states with open primaries, would be negligeable in closed primary states. (Few in closed primary states would take the trouble to re-register just for that kind of thing).

  7. Kylopod says:

    @charontwo: I don’t know that so-called “strategic voting” has ever worked. Remember Limbaugh’s Operation Chaos?

  8. MarkedMan says:

    While Christie may or may not be the least bad Republican running who is not Trump and so infinitely preferable to the traitor, he’s still a terrible choice for president. He is completely a creature of his own immense ambition. I worked in NJ for ten years and kept somewhat abreast of governance there, and it was very obvious that Christie’s first, middle and last consideration on everything he did was whether or not it advanced his political fortunes. Neither the good of the state nor the good of the NJ people ever entered into his decisions.

  9. gVOR10 says:


    Neither the good of the state nor the good of the NJ people ever entered into his decisions.

    Sounds like my Guv, DeUseless.

  10. CSK says:

    It sounds as if there’s a contradiction in the upening lines of the Politico piece: a reference to “a major voting bloc” in the first sentence becomes a reference to one of “the least important groups” in the second sentence.

    How can it be both simultaneously?

  11. Mr. Prosser says:

    Slap that picture of Christie on the closed beach in every ad. Should take care of everything.

  12. steve says:

    In the unlikely event that my choice when voting for president was either Christie or Trump I would choose Christie. That’s not going to happen. (I kind of feel sorry for the political reporters covering the GOP. Trump is going to win. It doesn’t make any sense but you still need to write stories and there are only so many nice ways you can say “it’s a cult, of course they are going to support Trump!”


  13. Kathy says:


    Primaries after a first term are nonexistent on the incumbent side, with some rare exceptions. those on the other side tend to get interesting, at least for political journalists.

    This year is different. Practically there are two incumbents, and both seem safer than H.W. Bush did in 1992. No one wants to chronicle a death foretold (I never read that book).

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Based on Christie’s chances, any group of voters larger than half a dozen or so constitutes “a major bloc” in terms of his personal support. Correspondingly, any “bloc” of voters that is going to support Christie constitutes one of the “least important groups” in the big picture aspect of the race.

    As much as we might want “none of the above” (and I know he’s a perennial favorite for me), None has formally announced that he’s not going to run this year, so we’re stuck with Trump and Biden–which will be okay, provided Trump doesn’t win (and the election’s too far away to make predictions, yet).

  15. DK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Is it too much to hope for an asteroid, or an alien invasion or some such?

    The valid rationale behind Democrats for Chris Krispy Kreme (or Ron DeFascist or Vivek Ramalamadingdong) is to prolong the Republican primary and instigate more conservative infighting.

  16. Kathy says:

    Regardless of Christie’s past actions, for now he’s the only one openly attacking Benito. I’m less certain on what value this brings.

    It’s very likely he’ll go back to kissing the Orange Ass’ orange ass if, Hera forbid, he manages to win the general election. I’m even less certain how well that would work out for him.

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DK: Well sure, but given that Democratic support of Christie (and I would say especially Christie) is not likely to have that result, and Giant Asteroid of Doom has also declared that it is not running this year, alien invasion it is.

  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    And I was wondering when somebody would finally come up with “Vivek Ramalamadingdong.” I really though it would be someone older that DK, though. Doowop was really early in the Boomer era. Almost before my time, even, and I didn’t know later generations still were into it.

  19. dazedandconfused says:

    I believe the only shot any of the Rs running against Trump have is in winning away the Christian fundie demographic from him. Christy doesn’t have the right chops to win them, neither does Vivek. Their demeanor is not going to cut it with them. DeSantis seemed to have a chance, he panders to them every chance he gets but his rather startling lack of charisma is proving to be a major and unfixable issue.

    I may be the only person on earth who thinks Pence has the best shot in the current pack of candidates of beating Trump. Not that it’s much of a shot…or anything.

  20. DK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Thank TikTok and Instagram Reels. Everything old is new again — the kids are dragging up old song clips and movie quotes, for memes, lip sync, dance etc.

    On Sunday, my GenZ nephew texted me a link to an Instagram Reel of Mary Astor begging Bette Davis for food in some black-and-white movie. Apparently, some Zoomers find this quote amusing and relatable.

    I looked it up, the movie (which I realized I’d seen before, back when AMC was still a thing) is from 1941. Within Instagram, the video has over 330k likes and has been shared over half a million times to date.

  21. Han says:

    He aggressively courted Democrats along the way to his reelection in 2013, so much so that his top aides choked access to the George Washington Bridge — the world’s busiest — to punish a local Democratic mayor for not backing Christie

    They have an interesting definition of courting.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DK: Noted. And thanx for the info. 🙂