Republican presidential candidate placing all his chips on one crucial early voting state

New Hampshire holds the first primary and second overall contest in the 2024 Republican presidential nominating calendar

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie returns to New Hampshire on Thursday to formally place his name on the ballot in the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the Republican presidential nominating calendar.

And for Christie, as he makes his second bid for the White House, it’s once again all about New Hampshire.

Christie, the most vocal critic of former President Donald Trump in the relatively large field of Republican White House contenders, has said that he’ll drop out of the 2024 race if he doesn’t do well in New Hampshire.

And as he campaigns in New Hampshire, Christie repeatedly warns Granite State Republicans “if Donald Trump wins here, he will be our nominee. And everything that happens after is going to be on our party and our country.”

But Christie, who’s considered one of the most effective communicators in the GOP, insists he isn’t a one-trick-pointy and argues that he has pathway for success if he performs well in New Hampshire.

“We absolutely have the infrastructure” to build on “the momentum that a win in New Hampshire will give for me. We’ll be just fine,” Christie emphasized as he spoke with reporters following an appearance last week at the New Hampshire GOP’s ‘First-in-the-Nation’ leadership summit.

Christie placed all his chips in his campaign for president eight years ago in the Granite State. However, his campaign crashed and burned after a disappointing and distant sixth-place finish in New Hampshire, far behind Trump, who crushed the competition in the primary, boosting him towards the nomination and eventually the White House.

Christie became the first among the other GOP 2016 contenders to endorse Trump and for years was a top outside adviser to the then-president and chaired Trump’s high-profile commission on opioids. However, the two had a falling out after Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Biden. In the past two and a half years, Christie has become one of the harshest Trump critics in the Republican Party.

While he’s seen his poll numbers rise in New Hampshire, Christie – along with the rest of the field – remain miles behind Trump, who’s the commanding front-runner in the GOP nomination race as he makes his third straight White House run.

“New Hampshire and South Carolina will be our main focus,” Christie told Fox News Digital in July. “You’ll see that’s what our travel reflects. I’m sure we’ll go to Iowa at some point, probably for a debate. But I’m going to spend my time here in New Hampshire and down in South Carolina.”

Since then, the former governor’s been making regular stops in New Hampshire, and this weekend – as his campaign touts – he’ll return to South Carolina for his second swing this cycle. But true to his word, Christie has yet to step foot in Iowa, whose Jan. 15 caucuses kick off the Republican nominating calendar.

While Christie’s betting heavily on New Hampshire, until last week he didn’t have any staff on the ground in the Granite State. That’s changed with the hiring of veteran Republican operative Jeff LaCourse as state director.

A source in Christie’s inner political circle predicted that Christie will “pick up the pace” when it comes to campaign stops in New Hampshire, with more hires of personnel ahead, adding that “a lot of the folks who were involved in the 2016 campaign are back and engaged.”

Asked last week about the lack of New Hampshire based staff until recently, Christie – who’s running a very lean overall campaign – shot back, “yeah, it’s October. We’re ready to go.”

With Christie still burdened by high unfavorable ratings among GOP primary voters due to his vocal criticism of Trump, two outside political groups backing his White House run recently sent mailers to registered Democrats in New Hampshire and ran targeted digital ads – urging those Democrats to change their voter registration in order to cast a ballot for Christie and against Trump in next year’s presidential primary.

While Christie’s campaign wasn’t part of the push, the candidate told Fox News that “we better start expanding the Republican Party and our voters. And I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that as many people in New Hampshire vote as possible who care about the issues we’re talking about and want to have their voice heard and have that translate. That’s the kind of campaign we’ve got to run across the entire country for the rest of the primary, and after I’m the nominee, the kind that I’ll run there.”

“I think that whatever we can do to expand the number of people who are hearing our voices and participating in our process makes us a stronger and a better party,” Christie emphasized.

And that’s the Christie campaign’s game plan.

The campaign views the Granite State as the crucial first step, but “unlike eight years ago he has more of a national strategy in addition to doing well in New Hampshire.”

An adviser told Fox News that “if Christie does well in New Hampshire, it’s a recipe that can be recreated in a number of states that have open primary processes where you take your core support with the Republican Party, but you also amplify it with support from independents who participate in the process.”

It’s a long shot, to say the least. But Christie remains optimistic as he compares his second White House run to his 2016 presidential campaign.

“We see it at every one of our town halls that now, eight years later, people are coming in and coming up to me afterward and saying, ‘we’re with you, we’re voting for you.’ It’s a much different feeling now than it was eight years ago,” Christie emphasized. “

And pointing to his verbal attacks on Trump, he offered “I think it’s because I’m the only person in this race who’s telling the truth.”