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David Axelrod series hosts Chris Christie, discusses 2024 election

As part of the 'Democracy at Work: A series with David Axelrod,' the former NJ governor joined Axelrod at the Tempe Student Pavilion


Chris Christie and David Axelrod in conversation at the "Democracy at Work: A series with David Axelrod" event at the Student Pavilion on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 in Tempe.

Former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie joined David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, for the third installment of the "Democracy at Work" series on March 19 at the Student Pavilion in Tempe.

"Democracy at Work: A series by David Axelrod," is a series in which Axelrod interviews guests about the current political landscape in the United States. In previous installments of the series, he interviewed University President Michael Crow and U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA). 

This event gave students an up-close look into the mind of 2016 and 2024 presidential candidate Christie and his thoughts on the state of the 2024 election. 

Christie was the Governor of New Jersey from 2010 to 2018. And in 2015 Christie announced his plans to run for the Republican presidential nomination. After a poor showing in the New Hampshire Primary, he promptly dropped out. Seven years later, in June 2023, Christie decided to run for president again and dropped out in January 2024.

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Axelrod, now a professor of practice at the University, was a senior advisor to former President Barack Obama. He was the founding director of the University of Chicago's "non-partisan" Institute of Politics and currently serves as a fellow at the university. 

The event began with a round of applause from the audience as the two men walked to center stage. The opening topic of conversation was the speech Christie made when withdrawing from the presidential race in January.

Axelrod praised Christie for the unique lane he took in the current Republican primary, pointing out his willingness to be introspective as a politician. 

"You did something that is unusual in politics, which is you were reflective about these decisions you had made in the past, and you talked about the corrupting nature of ambition," Axelrod said. 

Christie was often the sole Republican candidate who would criticize former President Trump on the campaign trail. Axelrod said this was unique in today's Republican Party. 

When Christie saw he was unable to secure a path to the nomination, he knew it was time to make the "difficult decision to get out" and suspend his campaign.  

Christie said he wanted his supporters to know that the time in between his two presidential campaigns was spent evolving and learning.

Christie, in 2016, had endorsed Trump following his exit from the race. Now, in 2024, Christie has been speaking out against the former president.

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He said his reasoning for endorsing Trump in the 2016 campaign was because he wanted to pick the person he thought would win and hoped to make him a better candidate. Reflecting on his time working with the former president, Christie said Trump is a "flawed character," and in 2024, it is one of the reasons he stands against the former president. 

Sitting opposite Donald Trump on the 2020 ballot was now President Joe Biden, to whom Christie believes the American people are indebted.

"If I were Joe Biden's son, I would put my arm around him and say, 'Dad, it was an amazing thing stopping Donald Trump from getting a second term,'" Christie said.

Christie said he believes Biden is at that point in his age where the right thing for him to do is to not seek reelection. If Biden chose to step down after his first term, the American people would have "carried him out of the White House on their shoulders," according to Christie.

Among other topics of conversation during the event were the conflict in the Middle East, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the impact of potential third-party presidential candidates.

Evan Powell, a senior studying mechanical engineering, said he was fascinated by the event. 

"It was incredible seeing these guys talk like that, just two people, saying their experiences that we would never be privy to talking about," Powell said. "(They) just so casually talk about this stuff about Ukraine and the way that Donald Trump acts. People have known this guy (Trump) personally."

Edited by Grey Gartin, Alysa Horton and Grace Copperthite.

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