2024 showdown: Christie ups his game in key primary state and turns up the heat on Haley

With the start of the Republican presidential nominating calendar just a month and a half away, Chris Christie is picking up the pace. 

As he sharpens his jabs at his 2024 White House rivals and vows he will qualify for next week’s fourth GOP presidential primary debate, the former two-term New Jersey governor making his second White House run is upping his sales pitch to voters.

“I’ve enjoyed the dating period. Now it’s time for us to get married,” Christie told the crowd Friday at Politics and Pies, hosted by the GOP committee in Concord, New Hampshire. It was a line he had used at a town hall the previous night.

Asked in an interview with Fox News Digital if he was getting marriage proposals from voters in the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP nominating calendar, Christie said, “I got a bunch last night after the town hall meeting.”

WHAT CHRIS CHRISTIE TOLD FOX NEWS ABOUT HIS 2024 CHANCES 

“The biggest difference between now and eight years ago is people that are coming to town halls are committing,” he said.

As Christie runs a second time for national office, he faces a steep uphill climb against former President Donald Trump, who’s the commanding frontrunner in the race as he makes his third straight White House bid. And he’s once again concentrating his time and resources in New Hampshire.

POPULAR GOP GOVERNOR IN A CRUCIAL PRIMARY STATE TEAMS UP WITH CHRISTIE, HALEY AND DESANTIS

Christie has shifted his lean campaign into a higher gear, increasing the number of events he’s hosting with Granite State voters. This week’s quick swing included two town halls, including one organized by the New Hampshire State Employees Association. The union said Christie was the first GOP candidate to meet with the membership in three decades. Christie returns to New Hampshire next week for a two-day tour of college campuses.

On Friday, Christie unveiled what his campaign touted was a “strong” and “influential” New Hampshire steering committee, which included former state GOP chair Wayne McDonald, former Rep. Charlie Bass, and two former Republican state Senate presidents.

Christie told Fox News he’s stepping up his game “because people here are starting to focus too in a way that was much different than, let’s say, the last four or five months. You can tell by the attendance at the town halls. You can tell by the kind of questions that you get. And you can tell by the way that they’re reacting. They’re getting ready to make their decisions too, and so, you gotta be up here and make sure that you’re making the case.”

The former governor, a one-time Trump ally turned vocal Republican critical of the former president, has been turning up the heat in recent weeks on two other rivals for the nomination.

HALEY’S HAVING A MOMENT ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Christie’s amplifying criticism of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for not vigorously targeting Trump. DeSantis and Haley are battling for a distant second place behind Trump in Iowa, the state whose Jan. 15 caucuses kick off the GOP nominating calendar. In New Hampshire, Christie’s in third place, behind Trump and Haley.

With Christie and Haley both aiming to win the votes of Republicans and independents who seek a Trump alternative, Christie’s been targeting his rival.

“My point that I’ve been trying to make about Nikki is just pretty simple. You can’t be running against Donald Trump and then say he was the right president for the right time,” Christie told Fox News. “You can’t be trying to cuddle up to Trump at the same time you’re running against him.”

Christie emphasized that Trump’s “well ahead. So, let’s stop pretending that he’s not, and let’s go after him because there’s a big case made against him.”

Haley, who’s been sharpening her jabs at Trump on the campaign trail and who’s made the case that she’s more electable than Trump in next year’s general election, has seen her standing in the race rise this autumn.

Earlier this week, she landed the backing of Americans for Prosperity Action, the political wing of the influential and deep-pocketed fiscally conservative network founded by the billionaire Koch Brothers. The group pledged to spend tens of millions of dollars and mobilize its formidable grassroots operation to help push the Republican Party past Trump and support Haley.

Christie made the stage at the first three Republican presidential primary debates and pushed back at speculation he’ll fail to reach the higher qualifying thresholds for next week’s fourth debate.

In August, ahead of the first debate, Christie said Republican presidential candidates who didn’t qualify for the showdown should drop out of the race. 

Asked on Friday if his blunt suggestion would come back to haunt him, Christie quickly answered, “I’ll be on the debate stage next week, so we won’t have to worry about it.”

And he reiterated that he’s 100% confident he’ll qualify.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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