Chris Christie Said the Quiet Part Out Loud

The candidates’ biggest threat isn’t on the stage.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yelled at businessman Vivek Ramaswamy during a particularly feisty exchange during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NewsNation on Wednesday night.Gerald Herbert/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Chris Christie said the quiet part out loud at the fourth Republican debate Wednesday night. The dominant figure in the Republican Party—former President Donald Trump—isn’t on the debate stage, and when the debate began, nobody talked about him despite his dominance in the polls.

When the former New Jersey governor finally wrestled some airtime from his three opponents—Vivek Ramaswamy, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—he noted that none of them had taken on Trump directly.

“We’re 17 minutes into this debate and…we’ve had these three acting as if this race is between the four of us,” Christie said. “The fifth guy, who doesn’t have the guts to show up and stand here, he’s the one who, as you just put it, is way ahead in the polls.”

“The fact is that when you go and say the truth about somebody who is a dictator, a bully, who has taken shots at everybody…then I understand why these three are timid to say anything about it,” he added, calling Trump “Voldemort, he who shall not be named.”

Ramaswamy spent the early part of the debate railing against the “woke industrial complex” while attacking Haley. Haley and DeSantis, meanwhile, battled over who was more anti-trans. 

Christie has a point: Trump is, of course, leading President Joe Biden in five out of six battleground states, according to a sobering New York Times/Siena College poll that dropped last month. He’s also leading in Iowa, polling at over 45% just a month ahead of the caucus.  

But for all Christie’s grandstanding, he eventually took the bait. Just minutes later, he too was sparring with Ramaswamy, calling him “the most obnoxious blowhard in America” before dragging Ramaswamy for “attacking Nikki Haley’s basic intelligence, not her positions, her basic intelligence.” 

Later in the debate, the moderators forced the candidates to confront the elephant in the room: Trump’s fitness for office.

Christie came out swinging, alleging his opponents were “afraid to offend” and explicitly condemn Trump.

DeSantis conceded that he thinks “we need to have somebody younger.”

Ramaswamy alleged his three opponents had been “licking Donald Trump’s boots,” adding that he thought the real enemy was “the deep state” that he claimed Trump was unafraid to take on.

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate