Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign event at MaryAnn’s Diner, Jan. 5, 2024, in Amherst, N.H. (Sophie Park/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s exit from the 2024 Republican primary marks the latest shake-up in the nominating race.

While Christie gave a lengthy speech on Wednesday explaining his decision and how much he hopes conservatives don’t rally around front-runner Donald Trump, it remains unclear how much Christie’s choice will affect GOP voters, most of whom keep saying in polls that they want Trump to be their party’s nominee.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was battling for the same independent and anti-Trump voters as Christie in New Hampshire, is projected to benefit, at least somewhat, from Christie’s decision to bow out.

Surveys have shown Haley closing the polling gap with Trump in the state, where undeclared voters can vote in the GOP primary. Christie largely based his entire 2024 bid — along with his vocal anti-Trump message — on winning over voters in New Hampshire, receiving higher polling numbers than elsewhere.

Polls suggest that support could now be less splintered among the Trump alternatives since Christie suspended his campaign.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, is not anticipated by experts to win over a substantial swath of Christie backers in his bid to outmaneuver Trump with a more hard-line conservative platform than Haley’s or Christie’s.

“Chris Christie may well be the first candidate who is polling in double digits to drop out before votes are cast,” GOP strategist Mike Dennehy said.

Dennehy predicted that “Haley will get an immediate 8-10-point bounce in the polls” in New Hampshire — which, if true, would make the state’s primary very competitive despite Haley having much less support elsewhere in the country.

Her campaign quickly cast the Christie news as a win, suggesting she’ll be the inevitable beneficiary of his decision.

“All of this means is that the field is continuing to consolidate, it’s consolidating around Nikki Haley,” Haley spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas said on ABC News Live.

Christie’s announcement comes at a critical moment for the former South Carolina governor. A string of notable debate performances — which earned her high marks from likely primary voters, according to 538/Washington Post/Ipsos polls — injected her campaign with momentum in the final months of 2023.

As the new year began, with just days before primary voting starts, in Iowa, Haley had seen her support in polls rise to rival DeSantis for second place nationally and in Iowa — even leapfrogging him in New Hampshire.

538’s polling average showed Haley trailing Trump there by about 12 points on Wednesday after running more than 37 points back as recently as September.

Now, Haley is looking to gain further ground in the final two weeks before New Hampshire’s primary on Jan. 23 while hoping to move beyond a recent string of gaffes on the campaign trail, including not initially mentioning slavery as a cause of the Civil War and later saying, “Iowa starts it, you change personalities, you go into New Hampshire, and they continue it on” — seen as a dig at the two early voting states, whose residents pride themselves on their place in the calendar.

Christie’s departure could result in many of his supporters shifting toward Haley: He was averaging roughly 11% support in New Hampshire and an analysis by 538 showed that Haley is the overwhelming second choice of Christie’s backers.

“While his attacks on Trump eventually stopped his campaign, they have opened up a chance for Haley to go head-to-head with Trump,” said Andrew Smith, the director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

Still, Haley faces headwinds in actually winning New Hampshire’s primary rather than running as a strong No. 2.

While she is anticipated to perform well with independent voters, Trump’s support among registered Republicans remains solid. A recent CNN/UNH poll that projected 45% of the GOP primary voters would be registered as undeclared rather than Republicans — a figure some strategists in the state were skeptical of — still showed Haley trailing by 7 points.

“It is shaping up as a Republican versus independent campaign. That has never happened in my 32-year history,” Dennehy said. “Republican voters solidly with Trump and independents beginning to side with Haley. There is a chance the Haley campaign can push enough independents to vote for her to offset GOP voters. If she pulls it off, it won’t be by much — but a win is a win.”

Still, there’s no guarantee Christie will campaign for his potential voters to go Haley’s way — or anyone else’s.

In his speech on Wednesday, Christie went out of his way to swipe at both Haley and DeSantis and suggested he didn’t see a viable Trump alternative in the field even as he said Trump could not be allowed to win again and that it was time for him to end his own campaign as a major Trump detractor.

Christie is not anticipated to make an endorsement soon, and prior to announcing his decision to suspend his campaign, he was apparently caught on a hot mic disparaging Haley’s chances in the primary.

“She’s going to get smoked,” he was heard saying to someone whose identity was not immediately clear.

“She’s not up to this,” he added.

Christie also said on that hot mic that he had talked to DeSantis and called him “petrified” — which DeSantis soon said wasn’t true — though sources told ABC News that the two have been talking by phone in recent weeks and DeSantis called Christie ahead of his announcement on Wednesday.

Months ago, advisers close to DeSantis fretted about a nightmare scenario: Christie dropping out before the New Hampshire primary, sources said. Some even warned the candidate himself about the possibility, according to one source.

Those advisers worried if Christie ended his 2024 bid before New Hampshire, most of his supporters would turn toward Haley and deal a blow to DeSantis in the state, per sources.

DeSantis’ campaign had no comment, though his allies have still been projecting confidence.

“If they want to look at somebody that’s viable and is running against President Trump — I mean, Christie’s voters are all just ‘never Trumpers,’ right? So if they want somebody that’s actually running against the former president, the only guy in the race doing that is DeSantis,” said a person familiar with his New Hampshire strategy.

Beyond New Hampshire and elsewhere in the primary race, Christie’s withdrawal is expected to have a minimal impact.

Trump, who is campaigning on an anti-government, anti-immigrant and anti-Biden message, has more than a 34-point lead in Iowa’s caucuses, according to 538’s polling average, and also has a roughly 29-point lead in Haley’s home state of South Carolina, which holds its primary on Feb. 24.

“Trump’s strong in South Carolina, he really is. I think Nikki Haley will come in a second, but I still believe she’ll be 20 points behind,” Moye Graham, the chair of the Clarendon County, South Carolina, GOP, told ABC News on Tuesday.

Christie’s immediate next steps are also something of a mystery.

His new book, What Would Reagan Do?, is set to be released next month, offering him the chance for a press tour during which he could continue to sound off on Trump and the 2024 race.

“Anyone who is unwilling to say that he is unfit to be president of the United States is unfit themselves to be president of the United States,” Christie said in his speech on Wednesday.

However, even as he pleaded with his party to turn away from Trump, he took time to make clear his differences with both Haley and DeSantis for being, in his words, too supportive of the former president.

At one point in his speech, Christie invoked the last time he dropped out of the White House race, eight years ago.

“For all the people who have been in this race, who have put their own personal ambition ahead of what’s right, they will ultimately have to answer the same questions that I had to answer after my decision in 2016,” he said. “Those questions don’t ever leave. The facts are really stubborn. They stay.”

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