Chris Christie, Eyeing ’24 Run, Takes Shots at DeSantis

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, slammed Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida as a fake conservative during an event in Washington on Tuesday, one of a string of meetings and stops as he considers a second Republican presidential campaign.

The comments, made at an event hosted by the media outlet Semafor, were among a wide range of topics that Mr. Christie touched on, including abortion rights and his feelings about former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.

Mr. Christie took a shot at Mr. DeSantis over his efforts to target Disney, a top business in Florida, over a fight that began when Mr. DeSantis signed legislation that banned classroom teaching and discussion about gender identity and sexual orientation in certain grade schools.

Mr. Christie suggested that Mr. DeSantis’s efforts to restrict Disney were against traditional conservative principles about small government.

“I don’t think Ron DeSantis is conservative, based on actions towards Disney,” he said. “Where are we headed here now that, if you express disagreement in this country, the government is now going to punish you? To me, that’s what I always thought liberals did, and now all of a sudden here we are participating in this with a Republican governor.”

At another point, he mocked Disney’s escape from Mr. DeSantis’s efforts to appoint a board to oversee it, using references to Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

“That’s not the guy I want sitting across from President Xi and negotiating our next agreement with China, or sitting across from Putin and trying to resolve what’s happening in Ukraine, if you can’t see around a corner that Bob Iger created for you,” Mr. Christie said. (Mr. Iger, a longtime Disney leader, returned as Disney’s chief executive late last year.)

Mr. Christie has been meeting with his staff and some donors and soliciting input from people, as he aims to decide in the coming weeks whether to run for president.

If he does run, he would start at a disadvantage in a party redefined by Mr. Trump. But as Mr. DeSantis has stumbled at times before formally entering the race, some anti-Trump voices in the Republican Party have grown more interested in a Christie candidacy.

Mr. Trump has taunted Mr. DeSantis relentlessly, while Mr. DeSantis has largely declined to push back on Mr. Trump. A television ad from the super PAC supporting Mr. DeSantis took issue with Mr. Trump for attacking Mr. DeSantis, a fellow Republican; Mr. Trump has never been bothered by such raised eyebrows.

But Mr. Christie has been willing to take on both Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis, who was meeting with lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday.

A senior member of Mr. DeSantis’s political team, who was not authorized to speak publicly, replied by insulting Mr. Christie and said he was resorting to attacking a “winner.”

Mr. Christie and Mr. Trump have gone from friends to opponents to allies after Mr. Trump became the nominee in 2016, beating Mr. Christie and all other rivals in the New Hampshire primary. He was the chairman of Mr. Trump’s transition team before top Trump aides and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law fired him from the role after Election Day; still, Mr. Christie remained aligned with Mr. Trump. The president considered him for chief of staff at one point in late 2018, but Mr. Christie took himself out of the running.

Mr. Christie told the crowd that Mr. Trump hit a point of no return with his lies that the election was stolen from him.

“There’s a difference between spinning politically to try to put yourself in a better position before the vote happens and after the vote happens to say it was ‘rigged,’” Mr. Christie said.

He also faulted Mr. Trump for declaring in a recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference that “I am your retribution” to people who believe they’ve been wronged.

“I think a president should be our inspiration, not our retribution,” Mr. Christie said.

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