Christie ramps up attacks on Haley as she closes gap with Trump in New Hampshire polls

With less than three weeks to go until New Hampshire holds the first primary in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is turning up the volume on his verbal attacks on rival former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

The former New Jersey governor is accusing Haley of acting “immature” in response to her viral comment that New Hampshire voters “correct” the Iowa caucus results. He argues that if former President Trump, the GOP nomination front-runner, asked Haley to be his running mate, “she would take it in five seconds.”

Haley, the former South Carolina governor who later served as United Nations ambassador in the Trump administration, has enjoyed plenty of momentum in recent months and has soared in the latest polls in New Hampshire, which suggest she has significantly closed the gap with Trump.

However, this week, two new comments by Haley were instantly used as ammunition by Christie, who is once again staking his presidential campaign on a strong finish in New Hampshire as he runs a second time for the White House. Christie stands in third place in most Granite State surveys, far behind Trump and Haley but ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and multimillionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

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Campaigning in Milford, New Hampshire, on Wednesday, Haley told the large crowd that “we have an opportunity to get this right. And I know we’ll get it right, and I trust you. I trust every single one of you. You know how to do this. You know Iowa starts it. You know that you correct it.”

Pointing to her home state, which on Feb. 24 will hold the first southern contest in the Republican presidential primary schedule, Haley added “and then my sweet state of South Carolina brings it home.”

The comment appeared to be tailored to Granite Staters, and the crowd cheered Haley’s remarks.

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On Thursday night, Christie took aim.

“You don’t have to correct anything that Iowa does or doesn’t do. That’s not New Hampshire’s responsibility. Your responsibility is to do what you think is right. You don’t have to worry about what Iowa does,” he told the crowd at a town hall in this New Hampshire town along the state’s southern border with Massachusetts.

Minutes later, he told reporters, “I think people in Iowa saw here yesterday that she’s willing to say anything to an audience to try to curry their favor.”

“She mocks Iowa voters just to try to get a laugh out of New Hampshire voters,” he argued. “I mean that’s like just immature. Grow up.”

Christie was not the only rival to blast Haley.

DeSantis, who is staking much of his campaign on a strong Iowa finish, charged Thursday in a local radio interview in the Hawkeye State that Haley was “incredibly disrespectful to Iowans to say somehow their votes need to be corrected.”

Haley, during a CNN town hall Thursday in Iowa, said her comment was intended as a joke, noting “we’ve done 150 plus town halls. You got to have some fun, too.”

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In recent weeks, DeSantis and Christie have taken aim at Haley for not being vocal enough in her criticism of Trump. Both candidates have argued Haley has an ulterior motive.

“She will not answer directly, and she owes you an answer to this: Will she accept a vice presidential nomination from Donald Trump? Yes or no?” DeSantis said at a town hall in New Hampshire last month.

Additionally, Christie, on multiple occasions over the past month, has emphasized that, “Ron DeSantis and I have both ruled out accepting the vice presidency from Donald Trump. Nikki Haley has not… That’s why she’s not saying strong things against Donald Trump.” 

Haley has frequently repeated that she is not running for second place in the GOP 2024 presidential primary.

Given the opportunity in a Fox News Digital interview Tuesday ahead of a town hall in New Hampshire to categorically rule out serving as Trump’s running mate if asked, Haley reiterated she is running to win.

“I have said from the very beginning I don’t play for second. It’s offensive for anybody to think that I would do all of this to play for second. And so I have said that. I will continue to say that. If people aren’t satisfied with that, I don’t know what else to say,” Haley said.

Haley also told Fox News that Christie and DeSantis have “criticized me for everything. Let’s be clear. That’s what happens when you’re losing.”

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Pointing to the Fox News Digital interview, Christie told reporters on Thursday night “she won’t answer. She gives this bull answer ‘I never play for second.’ Like, what’s that mean? It’s simply yes or no. Would you accept vice president from Trump or wouldn’t you.”

“She won’t answer. And you know what that means in politics when you don’t answer a question. That means it’s because you know the answer and you don’t want to say it out loud,” Christie claimed. “I will tell you right now, if Donald Trump offered her vice president, she would take it in five seconds. Five seconds. And that’s why she’s not answering the question.”

Pointing to South Carolina’s Feb. 24 Republican presidential primary, Christie argued that Haley “wants the wiggle room to be able to do that later on when she doesn’t do as well as everyone thinks she’ll do here and when she loses her own home state, which she’s going to do.”

In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Haley claimed that ruling out serving as running mate would make “the news for days” and stifle her momentum.

Christie, a longtime vocal GOP critic of Trump, has faced plenty of pressure in recent weeks to drop out of the race and back Haley to prevent any fracturing of the anti-Trump vote.

Referencing the crowd of close to 300 people who showed up at his town hall, Christie said “you saw all these people tonight who don’t want me out of this race. They want to vote for me. And I suspect a lot of these people here, if I dropped out, wouldn’t vote at all, because she’s unwilling to take Trump on.”

When asked by Fox News where he needs to finish in New Hampshire to continue on, Christie said “I have to come in second or like a very, very close third. I don’t think there’s any mystery to that. That’s what I have to do.”

Trump holds an extremely formidable double-digit advantage over DeSantis and Haley in Iowa – whose Jan. 15 caucuses kick off the GOP nominating calendar – and enjoys an even more massive lead in national polling in the Republican race.

However, with the latest polls indicating Haley narrowing the gap in New Hampshire, where independent voters have long played an influential role in the state’s storied primary, Trump’s campaign this week launched an attack ad on Haley in the Granite State.

Neil Levesque, the executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, told Fox News that “Haley has what every candidate wishes they had – which is momentum. And she’s closing the gap with Trump.”

Haley landed a big boost last month with the endorsement of popular Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who has joined Haley on the campaign trail at her town halls since backing her.

She is also supported by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Action, the political arm of an influential and deep-pocketed conservative public advocacy group with strong grassroots outreach.

Greg Moore, a longtime New Hampshire-based conservative activist and an AFP Action senior advisor, emphasized that “one thing we know about the New Hampshire primary is that they are often decided by momentum. We’ve seen that – for example – with John McCain twice, where he was a candidate with momentum in both 2000 and 2008. That’s where you want to be. Frankly, I think I’d rather be where Nikki Haley is right now than where Donald Trump is.”

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

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