Thu. Sep 21st, 2023

He ran through a menu of what he identified as Mr. Trump’s policy failures in office, then took aim at his urging supporters to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which Mr. Trump passively watched on TV. “And when he saw that, you know what he did? He ate his well-done cheeseburger, and sat there and did nothing.”

He expressed disgust that Republicans would think of renominating Mr. Trump. “Donald Trump is a TV star. Nothing more, nothing less,” Mr. Christie said. “And let me suggest to you that if we put it back to the White House, the reruns will be worse than the original show.”

Mr. Christie, who was one of the most combative governors of the modern era — eager to joust with lawmakers, hecklers or New Jersey residents who confronted him in forums — claimed, nonetheless, that what the country needed is a return to civility, and he was just the one to restore it.

It did not prevent him, though, from getting in a jab at President Biden’s age. Should the president win a second term, Mr. Christie suggested, he might well die in office and be succeeded by his vice president. “A vote for Donald Trump,” he said, implying that he would surely lose, “is a vote for Kamala Harris.”

Taking questions, Mr. Christie was asked by a teenager whether, given Mr. Trump’s attempt to subvert democracy, he would have voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Mr. Christie demurred. He still would have supported Mr. Trump, he said, because he preferred his policies.

Afterward, voters said that they appreciated Mr. Christie’s candor but that it was too early to commit to backing him.

“I hope he runs. I think it’d be good to see him in the mix this year,” said J.P. Marzullo, a retiree and former Republican state representative from Deering, N.H., who supported Mr. Christie in 2016. But he wanted to play the field. “I’m still looking at some other people right now,” he said.

Josh Merriam, 19, a student from Gilford, N.H., said the evening was “the first presidential hearing-thing I’ve ever been to,” and said his interest was piqued by Mr. Christie. “I do like Trump,” he said, but then he quoted back Mr. Christie’s warning that a Trump vote was akin to a vote for Ms. Harris. That was not a prospect he cared to contemplate.

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