- Christie advised Trump to adjust his 2020 campaign message and focus on the future, per a new book.
- The former New Jersey governor encouraged Trump to conduct a ‘thank you’ tour of small businesses.
- Trump did not heed Christie’s advice and was unable to shift the narrative regarding his management of COVID-19.
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Last summer, then-President Donald Trump was privately concerned about the state of the presidential race, fearing that the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the proliferation of mail-in balloting would threaten his reelection bid, according to a newly-released book by the Washington Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker.
Kellyanne Conway, who at the time was a senior counselor to Trump, said that the president could win the election if he leaned into a message that then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was a career politician and a relic of the past.
At the same time, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey told Trump that he was behind in the race and suggested that the president conduct a national ‘thank you’ tour of hospitals, and manufacturers that produced medical PPE (personal protective equipment), which Leonnig and Rucker detailed in “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year.”
“The public won’t know what to do with Donald Trump running around saying ‘thank you’ to everybody – and, more importantly, Joe Biden won’t know what to do,” the former governor said, according to the book.
Christie, who knocked off incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009 before winning reelection in the liberal-leaning Garden State four years later, was candid with Trump about the realities of running for reelection, when voters are looking for a fresh message from political candidates.
“Look, you’re running the 2016 campaign again and you can’t run the same campaign twice,” Christie said, according to the book. “It just never works. Times are different. You’re different. The way people view you is different. Your opponent is different. This doesn’t make any logical sense to run the same campaign.”
He added: “You have to run a forward-thinking campaign. Incumbents who win are the ones who are talking about tomorrow, not yesterday. All you’re doing is talking about yesterday and you’ve got to stop doing it.”
Two months prior to the 2020 election, the US had the worst coronavirus response in the world, logging more coronavirus infections or deaths than any other country – including China, where the outbreak began. As Insider’s Hilary Brueck reported at the time, most Americans, when asked, said their country’s response to the virus made them feel “embarrassed.”
Trump did not heed Christie’s advice to lead a forward-looking campaign, and continued to falter on his handling of COVID-19 in the eyes of voters, which became a liability as Biden presented himself as a better steward for combatting the virus.