ABC News

(WASHINGTON) —¬†Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday that he expected to get booed for attacking Republican primary opponent Donald Trump at a conservative conference in Washington on Friday but that his message was more important.

While noting that his comments to the Faith & Freedom Coalition also got “some good reaction,” Christie told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl: “Of course I expected the boos. That is predominantly a Trump crowd. But they need to hear the truth, too, that, you know, character is the single most important element of a president of the United States.”

“You can’t know every issue that’s going to come across the president’s desk. It’s not a litmus test with check boxes in them. What you need to know is, what is the character of that person?” he said.

Christie, a former ABC News contributor and Trump ally who ran for the White House in 2016, also warned that Republicans “do not need our party to go to a fourth loss” at the hands of Trump, if he is the party’s nominee again.

“That’s the stakes here. It’s not about whether you think Donald Trump had been treated fairly or not by the media or by elements of the Justice Department,” Christie said. “It is about whether he is a man of character who can lead this party to victory. And I don’t believe he can.”

Trump, for his part, repeatedly dismisses Christie’s attacks, calling him a “failed governor” and presidential candidate.

Christie has made directly challenging Trump a key part of his 2024 campaign. He told Karl that he believes his message is resonating with voters, though polls so far show Trump has a wide lead.

“I’m already in third place in New Hampshire, only four points behind Ron DeSantis, who has been in the race for a longer time and is supposed to be the co-front-runner,” Christie said, referring to Florida’s governor.

Still, FiveThirtyEight’s polling average has Christie receiving roughly 2% support at the national level.

On “This Week,” Christie touted another break with those in his party who express skepticism about aiding Ukraine in repelling Russia’s invasion. At the same time, he called out mistakes in dealing with Russia by the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations.

“America has never been a great country and the leader of the world by filling in the moat and pulling up the drawbridge,” he said, arguing that backing Ukraine also cut down on the rising influence of China.

“At the end of this sacrifice, I am absolutely a believer in the fact that America will be bigger, stronger, richer and more influential in the world because we stood by our principles and stood by our friends,” he said.

He said that he believes the recent domestic turmoil in Russia brought about by mercenary Yevgeny Prigozhin’s temporary revolt could help expedite the war’s end “because of [Vladimir] Putin’s weakness that’s obvious now inside his own country.”

Having highlighted his anti-abortion bona fides at the conference on Friday, Christie pushed back Sunday against calls by some GOP candidates, like former Vice President Mike Pence, for a federal abortion ban.

He urged a “national consensus” to develop on the issue first.

“Conservatives like me, for the last 50 years, have been arguing that this is not a federal issue. It’s a state issue. And it’s something that states should decide. The Dobbs case [overruling Roe v. Wade] one year ago gave us the opportunity to let each state make this decision,” he said.

“If a national consensus develops, I have no problem with the federal government stepping in and confirming that national consensus,” he continued.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.