NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for president "without an ounce of regret" on Wednesday, a day after his disappointing sixth-place finish in New Hampshire's primary.
"While running for president I tried to reinforce what I have always believed — that speaking your mind matters, that experience matters, that competence matters and that it will always matter in leading our nation," Christie wrote on his Facebook page and in an email to supporters. "That message was heard by and stood for by a lot of people, but just not enough and that's OK."
Campaign spokeswoman Samantha Smith said Christie shared his decision with staff at his campaign headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey, late Wednesday afternoon, and also called donors and other supporters to give them the news.
At his New Hampshire watch party Tuesday night, Christie told supporters he was heading home to New Jersey to "take a deep breath" and decide what to do next. But he spoke of his campaign in the past tense at one point and cancelled a Wednesday event in next-to-vote South Carolina, suggesting the end was near.
Christie dropped out of the race the same day that Carly Fiorina announced on social media that she, too, was calling it quits. The former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard won just 4 percent of the vote in New Hampshire. Christie had 7 percent.
Christie had been banking on a strong finish in New Hampshire and spent more than 70 days campaigning in the state, holding well-received town halls and meet-and-greets, as well as racking up a long list of notable endorsements from state legislative leaders in New Hampshire.
The terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino in particular played to Christie's advantage, allowing him to talk about his previous job as a U.S. attorney and play up his law-and-order credentials. And a commanding performance during the last GOP debate before the New Hampshire primary earned him strong reviews.
But while his campaign saw glimmers of hope at times — including a surge in December when he appeared to be breaking into the top tier of candidates — Christie had trouble from the get-go raising money and building support in a crowded Republican field filled with numerous other options, including current and former governors and senators; and dominated by another brash East Coaster, businessman Donald Trump.
While Trump posed a challenge to the entire Republican field, his dominance seemed especially damaging to Christie, who had branded himself the "telling it like it is" candidate.
Christie, who was once seen as a rising star in his party, entered the race badly damaged by a traffic jam scandal involving top aides. After his team and a supportive super PAC spent months working to rebuild his reputation, he was barraged by more than $5 million in negative adverting.
"There was a lot of money spent against him and it obviously had an impact," said Tucker Martin of the super PAC America Leads. "We recognized that we were taking water in January and we didn't have enough buckets to get it out of the ship."
Martin pointed to major gains in Christie's favorability over the course of the campaign, which he described as "a testament to his skills and ability as a communicator and a candidate."
But he said. "Politics is about timing and if we could do it all over again, you want to peak in late January, you don't want to peak in December. We just showed up on the radar a little too early."
Christie may have missed a better chance at the White House four year ago, when some of his party's most powerful statesmen and donors begged him to run in 2012. But Christie declined, saying that he didn't feel like he was ready.
Christie's aggressive political team worked to rack up endorsements and wide victory margins in his re-election bid for governor as a springboard for 2016. At the same time, his aides took their game of doling out political favors and punishments too far, leading to one of the most dumbfounding political scandals in recent memory. Aides purposely created traffic jams in the town of Fort Lee to punish the mayor, who chose not to endorse Christie's re-election.
"I have both won elections that I was supposed to lose and I've lost elections I was supposed to win and what that means is you never know what will happen," Christie wrote on his Facebook page. "That is both the magic and the mystery of politics — you never quite know when which is going to happen, even when you think you do."
Christie now faces a slew of unsolved problems and rock-bottom approval ratings in New Jersey from residents who, polls show, feel he neglected New Jersey to pursue his national ambitions.
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