The former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s decision on Wednesday to drop out of the presidential race shook up a contest for the Republican nomination that had appeared to be former President Donald J. Trump’s for the taking, giving a huge shot of adrenaline to Nikki Haley just five days before ballots begin to be cast in the monthslong nomination fight.
The most obviously altered battleground is likely to be New Hampshire, where Ms. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and Mr. Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations, is within striking distance of the former president. Even without his endorsement, many New Hampshire voters who planned to side with Mr. Christie as an opponent of Mr. Trump’s are likely to flip to Ms. Haley, as is potentially some of Mr. Christie’s leadership team.
But the jolt will have much broader implications, argued John Sununu, a former New Hampshire senator and the brother of the current governor, Chris Sununu, both of whom have endorsed Ms. Haley. A contest that has centered on Mr. Trump’s return and the fight between Ms. Haley and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for second place will now focus squarely on the threat Ms. Haley poses to Mr. Trump’s coronation.
A memo that Mr. Trump’s campaign blasted out after Christie’s announcement on Wednesday night did just that, broadcasting what it called internal polling that showed Mr. Trump beating Ms. Haley in a head-to-head contest 56 percent to 40 percent.
“It changes the whole story to Donald Trump’s worst nightmare, which is having to campaign and run on substance against someone who’s balanced budgets, who’s been a strong conservative leader and who, at the same time, hasn’t left chaos wherever she’s gone,” Mr. Sununu said.
Voters in Iowa will caucus on Monday, with the New Hampshire primaries following on Jan. 23. Mr. Christie’s decision could push the few voters he has in Iowa toward Ms. Haley. But, perhaps more important, the final days before the caucus will focus more on the two-person dynamic between Ms. Haley and Mr. Trump, taking oxygen from Mr. DeSantis in the state where he needs it most.
Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.
Thank you for your patience while we verify access.
Already a subscriber? Log in.
Want all of The Times? Subscribe.