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Economy

Chris Christie turns down No Labels presidential bid after discussions

Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) has decided against running as the No Labels candidate for president after spending time and money gaming out the prospects of a centrist third-party bid against President Biden and former president Donald Trump.

The decision leaves the group with few remaining high-profile options for candidates, despite widespread public concern over the two major-party contenders.

“I appreciate the encouragement I’ve gotten to pursue a third-party candidacy,” Christie said in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday. “While I believe this is a conversation that needs to be had with the American people, I also believe that if there is not a pathway to win and if my candidacy in any way, shape or form would help Donald Trump become president again, then it is not the way forward.”

Christie and his team spent the last several weeks investigating the possibility of joining a No Labels bid, as leaders of No Labels amped up their courtship of him to become a candidate.

His team commissioned polling in 13 states about his bid, calculated a potential campaign budget and studied potential maps for winning the electoral college, eventually concluding that a third-party bid would need to win 20 to 25 states, according to a people involved, who like others for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Ultimately, Christie concluded that while there is a conceptual appetite for a third choice in the upcoming election, there was not a practical path to victory. The obstacles included significant ballot access and litigation expenses, a late start for raising campaign dollars and the risk of drawing votes away from Biden to help elect Trump as president, the people said.

“I am going to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump to ever be president of the United States again. And that’s more important than my own personal ambition,” Christie said in January when he ended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

No Labels leaders have given themselves until the first weeks of April to nominate a presidential ticket, though they have cautioned that they will not move forward if they cannot recruit someone with a path to winning. People involved in No Labels have told others in recent weeks that they expected the nominee will be Christie, according to people familiar with the conversations.

“It is possible in the end we won’t find suitable candidates. We all realize that,” said Mike Rawlings, a former Dallas mayor and CEO of Pizza Hut who is running the No Labels convention process, in a call with supporters on March 8.

Over the fierce objections of Democratic leaders, the group has said the conditions for moving forward with their bid — the presumptive nominations of Trump and Biden — have been met. But many of the potential candidates they had courted have publicly ruled out joining the ticket, including Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), former Maryland governor Larry Hogan (R) and former Georgia lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan (R). One of the co-chairmen of the group, former Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), 82, died Wednesday after complications from a fall, his family confirmed.

No Labels, organized through a national nonprofit with state affiliates, has gained ballot access or finished their applications in 19 states, the group announced Wednesday. The nonprofit, which does not disclose its donors, cannot directly fund a presidential campaign, creating a financial challenge for any contenders who want to run on the No Labels bid without significant personal wealth or a preexisting network of supporters.

No Labels allies have started a super PAC, New Leaders 2024, which can accept donations of unlimited amounts, to help fund the campaign, and several top donors to No Labels have made offers to back a bipartisan “unity ticket,” according to people familiar with the conversations.

Christie’s Republican campaign for president was built around fierce opposition to Trump. He had dismissed the No Labels presidential project last summer as a “fool’s errand.” But in an interview last week with the Axe Files podcast, Christie made clear he was considering the possibility.

“I wouldn’t preclude anything at this point,” Christie said. “I would just say that there are a number of hurdles to get over before I would actually consider running as a third-party.”

After Christie left the Republican race, he told NBC News he would not vote for Trump “under any circumstances.”

“I can’t see myself voting for President Biden, either,” he added.

Christie said Wednesday in his statement that he continues to believe that the nation’s politics needs to change. “I believe we need a country that once again feels like everyone has a stake in what we’re doing and leadership that strives to bring people together, instead of using anger to divide us,” he said.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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