GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie said Sunday that Republicans made “a mistake” in 2016 by not targeting former President Trump during his first bid for the White House and instead went after each other.
ABC’s Jonathan Karl on “This Week” played a clip of Christie taking a shot at Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) during a GOP primary debate that year in which Christie famously took shots at the Florida Republican. Karl asked Christie whether the former New Jersey governor regretted not taking a “swing” at Trump instead of Rubio.
Christie responded that all of the GOP candidates made that mistake in not going after Trump.
“I wish that I had taken swings at both of them, Jon, looking back on it,” he said. “I think we all made a mistake in 2016 — myself, Marco, Jeb Bush, John Kasich — in not going after Donald Trump.”
Trump’s candidacy at the time had been underestimated before he ultimately won the GOP nomination much to the surprise of longtime political watchers.
“I think we all were under the illusion that somehow what was obvious to us at the moment, that there were better candidates on the stage than him, would be obvious to the public,” he said. “It wasn’t, and I think it should inform everybody’s approach to the race this time. It certainly is informing mine.”
GOP presidential hopefuls will take the stage in Milwaukee on Aug. 23 for the first Republican debate of the 2024 primary. To qualify for the first debate, GOP candidates need to meet certain polling and donor requirements, as well as sign an RNC pledge saying they will support the eventual Republican nominee.
Christie, who said that he has not been presented with the GOP pledge, said he expects Trump to sign it despite the former president saying he may not show up to the debate.
As of Sunday, eight GOP presidential candidates have qualified for the first debate: former President Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, Christie, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.