The crowded Republican field doomed Gov. Chris Christie’s fundraising efforts and, thus, his presidential campaign, Christie said Thursday during his first lengthy remarks since dropping out of the race three weeks ago.
Christie raised nearly $8 million and the America Leads and Leadership Matters for America Super PACs supporting him took in more than $23 million through the end of January. Combined, the committees spent $29 million. That was less than almost all the Republicans still in the race and some who have dropped out. But it was more than frontrunner Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
The nearly two-hour press conference was the first time Christie agreed to answer questions about the presidential race and other topics from New Jersey reporters, and it followed a growing clamor for Christie’s resignation. Several New Jersey newspapers and politicians — including four legislators from his own party — over the last two days have said that Christie should either do his job as governor in New Jersey or resign.
Christie made brief remarks touting the drop in the state’s unemployment rate and then addressed those resignation calls, as well as answering questions about his failed presidential bid and his controversial endorsement of Republican frontrunner Trump, among other topics.
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Christie said he had “no current plans to go back out on the road” to campaign with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, although he added, “but I will at some point, I’m sure, do so.”
That was apparently good enough for Beck, who issued a statement after the press conference that read: “I am pleased that Governor Christie reaffirmed his commitment to invest his time, energy and effort into the serious policy issues that New Jersey faces, and that his time will be spent here in our State.”
Christie has spent about half his time out of state since being re-elected in 2013, first as head of the Republican Governors Association and then campaigning for president. Last year alone, he was out of New Jersey for at least part of 261 days.
Whenever he travels, his State Police security detail travels with him — at taxpayer expense. The administration has been less than transparent about the costs and has released only incomplete information about travel expenses. Based on prior costs, NPR estimated Christie’s security cost around $1 million last year. Those expenses will continue to be incurred by the taxpayers whenever Christie campaigns for Trump.
“As always, my security detail travels with me and the cost, as always, will be absorbed by the State Police,” he said. “The Trump campaign does not benefit from my troopers being there. The taxpayers probably don’t want to pay the state troopers to go to the supermarket with me either.”
The governor said he is not serving as a surrogate for Trump and did not plan to travel as much. He said that in the 22 days since he left the race, he has been in New Jersey for 19 days “and those days I have been working.” The trips were to announce and “emphasize” his endorsement of Trump.
“I am here,” Christie said. “I am back to work. We have done the things that we needed to do to prove we are back to work.”
Christie was at times sarcastic and at times combative.
Answering complaints from “all the sensitive souls in the press” that in announcing his re-nomination of Superior Court Judge David Bauman to the state Supreme Court he had refused to take questions on any other topic, Christie opened up the event to questions by saying, “I’m here to answer every one of your questions, all the ones that have been pent up inside you that have just been eating you up inside.”
He also said he does not think he spent “too much” time traveling out of state, noting that part-day visits to neighboring states are all being counted as time away from New Jersey.
“I thank the people of New Jersey for their indulgence when I was running for president,” Christie said, “but I also want to remind them that every day that I was running for president I was also the governor and was making decisions and doing things.”
Answering several different questions about his endorsement of Trump, Christie justified it by saying, as he has already, “I believe he’s the best person to beat Hillary Clinton and I feel very strongly Hillary Clinton should not become president of the United States.”
He brushed aside the controversy over his endorsement, saying that’s what happens in politics “when you don’t sit on the sidelines but when you actually get involved in the game.”
His support of Trump is somewhat ironic, given that Christie also said of the New York businessman, “Had he not been in the race, I would have been the nominee.”
Christie said the crowd of 22 candidates early on in the GOP race also hurt him.
“The crowded field complicated lots of things: It complicated endorsements, it complicated fundraising, it complicated free media coverage,” he said.
As a result, Christie said, he was unable to raise enough money to be competitive.
“There is not an infinite pie of money,” he said. “When the attacks come, you have to be able to answer them, and if you can’t answer, you’re not going to win.”
The total pot of $31 million raised to support Christie paled in comparison to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s $152 million: the $34 million in Bush’s campaign committee alone was more than Christie’s total including Super PACs. It was also less than the $101 million raised so far to support Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and the $69 million for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
But it was twice the $15 million supporting Kasich, who is still in the race with 25 delegates, and Trump’s $27 million. Christie did not win any delegates before dropping out following his sixth-place showing in the New Hampshire primary.
There were more than 4,400 donors to Christie for President and the Super PACs. The lion’s share of Christie’s money came from New Jersey — $7.3 million — and neighboring states. However, Christie also got at least one donation from every state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, except for Hawaii, New Mexico and North Dakota.
Within the state, towns including Branchburg, Convent Station, his hometown of Mendham, and Summit — were the most generous to him. He got nearly $479,000 in 24 donations from Branchburg alone, with Antonio Ferreira and construction companies affiliated with him and his family giving $325,000 to America Leads and $5,400 to Chris Christie for President.
The largest overall donors supporting Christie were from out-of-state. Hedge fund manager Steven Cohen and his wife Alexandra of Greenwich, CT, gave a total of $5.75 million to America Leads.
Three others contributed at least $1 million to Christie’s campaign. Quicken Loans chairman Daniel Gilbert of Michigan gave $1.25 million. Investment manager Walter W. Buckley Jr. of Buckley Muething Capital Management in Bethlehem, PA, gave just over $1 million. Winecup-Gamble Ranch Inc. in Nevada — owned by Paul Fireman, the private equity chairman who has proposed building a casino in Jersey City next to his Liberty National Golf Club — gave $1 million.
The largest New Jersey contributors to America Leads gave $250,000 and included Newark-based Public Service Enterprise Group.