Compared to the many other governor- and senator-class Republicans who are running for their party’s 2024 presidential nomination, Chris Christie doesn’t have any particular strength.

But he has one significant strategic advantage. Unlike his rivals, the former New Jersey governor is willing to attack the guy who’s in first place.

It’s incredible that seven years after Trump’s rivals ignominiously lost to him in 2016, Christie is so far the only Republican in 2023 willing to point out that Donald Trump is a corrupt and incompetent loser.

In his Tuesday announcement speech from Manchester, New Hampshire, Christie attacked Trump as a “bitter” failure, but he also called out the bevy of other Republicans who are running against the disgraced ex-president and yet never actually challenge him in a meaningful way.

“You’re not going to beat someone by closing your eyes, clicking your heels together three times and saying there’s no place like home,” Christie said, adding that other rivals like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott were so afraid to name and criticize Trump that were treating him like Voldemort, the Harry Potter villain whom characters dared not name.

“There is one lane for the Republican nomination and he’s in front of it. And if you want to win, you better go right through him. Because let me guarantee you something from knowing him for 22 years, he’s going to try and go through me. He’s going to try and go through Ron, and Nikki, and Tim, and everybody else who stands in his way.”

That diagnosis of the Republican presidential race is exactly correct. But it was true in 2016 as well, when Christie and 15 other Republicans steadfastly refused to criticize Trump until right before their challenges to him ended, based on the naïve assumption that the corrupt former wrestling side show was going to miraculously implode as a candidate.

In modern times, no upstart has managed to win a presidential nomination by refraining from attacking the leading candidate. But until Christie’s entry into the race, it seemed as if Trump’s alleged 2024 rivals were going to make the same mistake all over again, this time on the fantasy that Republicans voters won’t cast ballots for the ex-president if he were imprisoned for some of the various crimes of which he has been accused.

Spoiler alert: They will be happy to do so. An April NPR/PBS poll found that 63 percent of Republican-leaning adults said that they would still support Trump to be president, even if he were convicted of a crime. In fact, Trump’s support among Republicans has increased after he was indicted on criminal financial charges in New York and held liable in a civil lawsuit for sexual assault.

Right-wing elites have hated Trump since he emerged on the political scene in 2015 and took their party away from them by giving its extremist base voters the heaping servings of malice and lies that they desperately crave. But until yesterday, none of them was willing to hit Trump as hard as he hit them.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has exemplified party leaders’ response to Trump in innumerable television interviews, such as the one he gave to MSNBC on Monday.

“I think we almost all the candidates have a very viable path to beating Donald Trump,” he told “All In” guest host Jen Psaki.

“Donald Trump doesn’t represent the Republican Party,” he continued. “He’s the outsider. And we’ve kind of let him get away with kind of co-opting, I think, what our better traditional ideals of the Republican Party – of limed government and local control.”

Mike Pence, Trump’s erstwhile running mate has been similar in his consistent delusion about the Republican electorate. Both he and Tim Scott seem intent on running the exact same Zombie Christian Reaganism campaign for 2024. Ditto for Haley.

This sort of delusional happy talk is extremely effective at separating decrepit right-wing billionaires from their wallets, but it isn’t even remotely close to the truth. The majority of the Republican Party’s voters have never been interested in cutting government spending, and no one complained in 2020 when the Republican National Committee didn’t even bother to write a national party platform. The majority of people who vote Republican have always done so because it stokes their feelings of religious, cultural, and racial grievance.

Given Trump’s canny televangelist bond with his fans’ thanatos instinct, it’s far from certain that Christie can win the 2024 Republican presidential contest. But by actually telling the truth about the ousted chief executive and the “breathtaking grift” of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Christie could at the very least significantly damage Trump.

It might not be enough to block Trump from becoming the Republican nominee, but it could be enough to damage him in the general election against President Joe Biden.

At the very least, things are finally getting interesting.