Chris Christie: 55 things you need to know

Chris Christie: 55 things you need to know

He used to be the future.

In the field of Republicans running for president, a growing group headed by Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, there’s nobody quite like Chris Christie. He was Trump before Trump. He was DeSantis before DeSantis. Pugnacious, unapologetic and politically incorrect, he was before “Bridgegate” a total GOP “rock star.” He talked big, and won big, too — and not just in a swing state but in a blue state.

Now he barely registers in polls, running behind Tim Scott, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, and level with two current governors who aren’t even running (yet?). Still, with the announcement of his candidacy, the former two-term “Boss” of New Jersey, former 2016 White House hopeful and former longtime Trump confidant and pal instantly becomes maybe the most compelling challenger of them all.

“He is almost Trump’s equal in showbiz and his superior in invective, so he can do some damage,” Peggy Noonan wrote last week in the Wall Street Journal. “Would it be a suicide mission? I don’t know. But those kamikazes took out a lot of tankers.”

What do people need to know about Christopher James Christie, beefy, brash and “addicted” to attention? Here, culled from his many, many interviews, the array of in-depth profiles over the years, the books written about him and the books written by him, is a long, loud list of a reminder.


”You could not have told anybody who was a Christie supporter that he wouldn’t be the Republican nominee,” a longtime Christie aide said to Matt Katz in trying to describe the way it felt in New Jersey in 2013. “It felt like however people must have felt about Bill Clinton in Arkansas in 1991. Everyone felt it. This is about to happen.”


“I have regrets about every part of my life, Mark,” Christie told Mark Leibovich earlier this year. “And anybody who says they don’t is lying.”


The name of the PAC supporting his candidacy is “Tell It Like It Is.”


“One of the most intriguing political figures in America,” Matt Bai once wrote. “The most interesting person in American politics to cover,” said one of his biographers. “He’s demanding, he’s loyal, he’s combative, he’s entertaining, he’s mouthy — but never boring,” said two more.


“If I get into the race,” he said this spring, “I’ll make it interesting.”


He was born Sept. 6, 1962, brought home from the hospital to a fourth-floor walk-up in Newark.


He grew up in suburban Livingston, N.J., in a 1,300-square-foot house with a fenced-in yard and an above-ground pool. His father, Wilbur James “Bill” Christie, a Wall Street accountant and Republican, was a mixture of German, Irish and Scottish. His mother, Sondra “Sandy” Grasso, a Democrat of Sicilian descent, was a receptionist at the office for the school district. He has two siblings — Todd, who’s two years younger, and Dawn, who’s 10 years younger and adopted.


He was especially close to his maternal grandmother, “Nani,” with whom he spent many weekends. She took him to the library. She took him to New York City. She let him watch two shows — college football on Saturday, “Meet the Press” on Sunday.


Baseball was his sport, and he played catcher. A slow runner but a good hitter, he was considered a team leader. He once wrote a letter to the editor to the weekly newspaper thanking his coaches.

Chris Christie: 55 things you need to know


When he was 14, he heard Tom Kean, who then was a member of the state legislature and later would become the governor, speak at his junior high. He told his mother he wanted to be a politician. She drove him straight to Kean’s house and told him to knock on the door. "Sir, I heard you speak,” he said. “I think I want to get into politics. How do I do it?”


He was the president of his class every year of high school.


One of his classmates, Harlan Coben, the mega-best-selling novelist, once said: “If you were to ask who in our class would end up being governor, most people would tell you Chris Christie.”


He was the starting catcher on his high school team — until his senior year when a new kid beat him out to take his spot. “One of the first real disappointments in life I had to deal with,” Christie has said. “He was just crushed,” one of his teammates once recalled. He was still elected captain, and the Livingston Lancers won the state title. At the banquet to celebrate at the end of the year, the coaches praised his selflessness. He received a standing ovation.


He was rejected from Georgetown and instead went to the University of Delaware, where he voted for the first time, for Ronald Reagan, in 1980, became president of his dorm and of the student body and organized student opposition to Reagan’s cuts to student loans by traveling to Washington and personally lobbying (then-second-term-senator and fellow Fightin’ Blue Hen) Joe Biden.


Through student government in college he met Mary Pat Foster, from Chester County, west of Philadelphia, the ninth of 10 children. They got engaged nine months after they started dating. They married in 1986.


They have four children — Andrew (born in 1993), Sarah (1996), Patrick (2000) and Bridget (2003). Andrew played baseball at Princeton and is an assistant director for player development for the New York Mets. Sarah went to Notre Dame and was a student manager for the men’s basketball team. Bridget goes to Notre Dame and is a student manager for the men’s basketball team.


He graduated from Seton Hall Law School in 1987 and became a corporate litigation attorney.


Christie’s aunt’s husband’s brother was a ranking member of the Genovese crime family —twice convicted of racketeering, sentenced to 25 years in prison and linked by investigators to several murders, including one in which the victim was strangled with piano wire. Christie visited him in prison in 1991.


In his first four years in politics, from ’93 to ’97, pro-choice and anti-gun, he challenged an 18-year Republican incumbent in the state senate in a bid that ended almost before it began because of invalid signatures he collected to get on the ballot, ran to be a Morris County freeholder (essentially a county commissioner) and won even though he was sued successfully for defamation for an attack ad, started running again for the state legislature mere weeks after his swearing in and lost badly in his first freeholder reelection effort. “His reach exceeded his grasp,” a longtime GOP pol would tell Ryan Lizza.

Chris Christie: 55 things you need to know


He helped raise (along with future political aides Bill Palatucci and Jon Hanson) half a million dollars for George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. He went on Court TV as a legal analyst during the Bush v. Gore post-election controversy. Bush’s affectionate nickname for Christie: “Big Boy.”


He was rewarded by Bush with a nomination to be the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey — despite no criminal or prosecutorial experience as a lawyer. In seven years, he oversaw the indictments and guilty pleas of more than 130 elected and appointed political officials — with not one acquittal. He also successfully prosecuted Jared Kushner’s father. “He was a very quick study,” said one of his deputies.


One piece of advice he took to heart that he got from one of his bosses at the time: “It’s harder to hate up close.” That boss? U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Comey.


He was invited to Trump’s third wedding in Palm Beach in 2005. It’s where he met Bill and Hillary Clinton. He marveled during the cocktail hour at the former’s room-working acumen. “The master,” Christie would say.


He was elected governor in 2009 with just under 49 percent of the vote. Trump sat in the front row of the Mass at his first inaugural.


He cultivated a reputation as a bully. He called an ex-Navy SEAL a “jerk.” He called various reporters at various times for various reasons “idiots.” He called a Democratic assemblyman “numbnuts.” He heckled a heckler on the Seaside Heights boardwalk while eating an ice cream cone. “That makes me honest,” he told Jon Stewart. “That makes me say, ‘If you’re being an idiot, I’m going to call you an idiot, and if you don’t like it, then stop acting like an idiot.’”


He called himself an “ally” of Barack Obama on education reform in 2011.


Roger Ailes encouraged him to run for president in 2012.


He thought about it, but he didn’t. He was, however, vice-president-vetted by Mitt Romney. In his speech that year at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, he said “I” 37 times — and “Romney” just seven.


Superstorm Sandy supercharged his popularity. His response to the devastation wrought by the worst storm to hit New Jersey in a century — he was “everywhere, all the time, for months,” as Josh Dawsey once wrote, going to funerals, consoling citizens, welcoming Obama — had his approval ratings skyrocketing toward 80 percent. He was on SNL played by Bobby Moynihan. He was on SNL as himself. “I’m basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen,” he said on Letterman once while eating a donut he pulled from a pocket of his suit. He was the most popular Republican in America.


In 2013, he got a standing ovation from the Democratic legislature at his state of the state address, had Lap-Band surgery to try to lose weight, earned a spot on TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, signed legislation supporting financial aid and in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants, signed legislation banning licensed therapists from trying to turn gay teens straight and earned a second term in a landslide. Nearly a decade before DeSantis was reelected by 19 points in swing-state Florida, Christie was reelected by 22 in blue-state New Jersey — winning women, Hispanics and independents. He won nearly half of the state’s voters aged 18 to 29. He won nearly a third of its liberals and Democrats. He won more than a fifth of its Black voters. He won all but two of New Jersey’s 21 counties. “Politics is a feeling,” Christie told Peggy Noonan in October 2013 — and the feeling at the time was that Christie was maybe going to be the next president.


“Bridgegate” broke Jan. 8, 2014 — “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Christie’s deputy chief of staff said in an email to a Port Authority official — and while Christie denied knowledge of the plot to exact revenge on a mayor who hadn’t endorsed him, his popularity cratered from there.


His favorite book is The Great Gatsby. He says he’s read it twice.


Favorite movie? “The Godfather.”


His favorite baseball team is the Mets. His favorite football team is the Dallas Cowboys.


He’s a Bruce Springsteen fanatic. He’s been to more than 140 concerts. He knows every word of every song. When Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist for Springsteen’s E Street Band, died in 2011, Christie told his wife, “My youth is over. He’s dead, and anything that is left of me being young is over.”


He’s a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in the suburb where he lives.


He’s a member of the Sports Betting Hall of Fame for his longstanding efforts to legalize sports betting in New Jersey.


When he ran for president in 2016, he dropped out after finishing sixth in the New Hampshire primary despite doing more than 100 town halls in the state and getting more local endorsements than any other candidate. Christie voters had become Trump voters.

Chris Christie: 55 things you need to know


He endorsed Trump two weeks later. He was passed over by Trump for VP. He was pushed out as the head of Trump’s transition team — partly because he (rightly) warned them about Michael Flynn.


Still governor and back in New Jersey in 2017, with beaches closed due to a budget standoff, he sat in a chair with his family on an empty state park beach at the governor’s official seaside retreat. A Star-Ledger photographer snapped pictures with a long lens from a plane.


He didn’t want to be Trump’s third chief of staff. “Not the right time,” he said.


He almost certainly got Covid from Trump in the fall of 2020 (“undeniable,” he has said) while attending the Amy Coney Barrett “super-spreader” ceremony in the Rose Garden and helping Trump prepare for the debates against Biden. The overweight and asthmatic Christie spent seven days in intensive care. Trump called Christie from Walter Reed. “Are you gonna say you got it from me?” he asked. “And that,” Christie would say, “was the last call I got in the hospital from Donald Trump.”


He also registered as a lobbyist in 2020 to represent businesses lining up for Covid relief funds.


He flipped publicly on Trump after the election that November and particularly post-Jan. 6. “I think the last eight weeks has been the worst behavior that I have seen by this president in the four years he has been there,” he said. “His conduct in the last eight weeks has been completely unacceptable for someone who holds the greatest position the American people can bestow on anyone.”


Of late, he’s ramped up his attacks. “I think a president should be our inspiration, not our retribution,” he said, referring to Trump’s pledge in a speech that he would be the latter.


“The election wasn’t stolen. He lost,” he said.


“I think Trump has disqualified himself from the presidency,” he said.


“If you think you’re a better person to be president than Donald Trump, then you better make that case,” he said. “No one else has the balls to do it.”


And DeSantis? “I don’t think Ron DeSantis is a conservative,” Christie said.


He was until last week a political pundit for ABC News.


In the second grade he ran out the door of his elementary school and over to the flagpole and took down the American flag for the night and looked over at the mother of one of his classmates. “Mrs. Cushman,” he said, “some day I’m going to be president!”


Polls say he is at this point historically unpopular.


In April of 2014, not quite three months after “Bridgegate” broke, he attended a celebrity roast in Newark to mark the 90th birthday of Brendan Byrne, New Jersey’s governor from 1974 to 1982. “He’s an inspiration,” Christie told the audience, nodding to Byrne’s reelection against long odds, because he has “shown that political comebacks can actually happen.”


“He still possesses all the assets that made him a rising GOP star and all of the flaws that led to his astonishing fall: relentless ambition and pragmatic competence, shrewd political instincts tempered by inexplicable blind spots, a penchant for vengeance and a volcanic temper, a keen sense of humor and an ability to project empathy, an obsession with fame but humility enough to keep up with old high school friends on Facebook,” Josh Dawsey once wrote. “He’ll resurface because he has too much ability not to,” Tom Kean told Dawsey. “This is why it’s sad in a sense. He’s the most able politician I know, with possibly the exception of Bill Clinton.”


“When I run out of fights to have,” he once said, “I’ll stop fighting.”

Sources: POLITICO, POLITICO Magazine, New York, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, TIME,, Newark’s Star-Ledger, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, Reuters, Bloomberg, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, NPR, CNN, TMZ, GQ, Forbes, C-Span, Axios, Semafor, Media Matters; American Governor: Chris Christie’s Bridge to Redemption, by Matt Katz; Chris Christie: The Inside Story of His Rise to Power, by Bob Ingle and Michael Symons; Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics, by Chris Christie; Republican Rescue: Saving the Party from Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden, by Chris Christie.


By: Michael Kruse and Ekaterina Pechenkina
Title: 55 Things You Need to Know About Chris Christie
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Published Date: Tue, 06 Jun 2023 03:30:00 EST

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