WASHINGTON — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) received a frosty reception Friday at a conservative confab after he criticized former President Donald Trump, one of his rivals in the 2024 White House race.
“I’m running because he’s let us down,” Christie told a crowd of several hundred social conservatives gathered at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference at the Washington Hilton hotel.
“He’s unwilling to take responsibility for any of the mistakes that were made, any of the faults that he has, and any of the things that he’s done.”
Several angry Trump supporters in the crowd jeered, and one woman yelled, “We love Trump!”
“You can boo all you want, but here’s the thing: Our faith teaches us that people have to take responsibility for what they do,” Christie said in response, drawing a smattering of applause from the audience.
Christie launched his presidential campaign earlier this month, positioning himself as someone who isn’t afraid to call out Trump over his actions as president, including his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. The former governor had been an early supporter of Trump but has since said that he made a “fundamental judgment error.”
Moments after leaving the stage Friday, Christie walked into a lobby outside the hotel’s ballroom, where he was greeted by a small crowd loudly cheering him on.
“Christie! Christie! Christie!” chanted a group of about 10 people. It’s unclear if they were part of his team or just a random assemblage of supporters.
“My favorite governor!” one shouted.
“What’s wrong with you guys?” Christie joked, shaking their hands and posing for pictures.
HuffPost asked what he made of being booed for knocking Trump.
“That’s what happens when you tell the truth,” Christie replied. “It’s OK.”
When another person standing nearby told him to “stand your ground” on calling out Trump, Christie said, “I will.”
Not everyone in the vicinity was a fan of Christie.
Mike, a 35-year-old small-business owner from New York, stood quietly as Christie posed for photos. So did 34-year-old Diana from Tennessee. (Both requested to have their full names withheld.)
“I’m still with Trump,” said Diana.
“I’m with Trump,” Mike said.
Diana said she thinks Trump is the best candidate when it comes to “international affairs, our economy, how it’s going. I look at our border crisis. I’m from Texas. That really does affect my family.”
Christie scores low marks with GOP primary voters. Before he announced his campaign, a Monmouth University poll found that the governor’s unfavorable rating was the highest of 10 potential 2024 presidential hopefuls tested, underscoring the challenge he faces in mounting a bid for the White House.
Mike, for example, is still mad at Christie over Bridgegate, the 2013 political scandal involving the then-governor’s staff and political appointees colluding to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing lanes at a major toll plaza. A federal investigation into the scheme, which came about as retribution for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee not endorsing Christie in his gubernatorial reelection bid, resulted in multiple indictments against several of Christie’s staffers.
Mike said he still remembers being stuck in four hours of traffic during Bridgegate as part of his regular commute from New York to New Jersey.
“I suffered in that traffic,” he said.