Christie, Hutchinson get a stormy reception at Florida voter summit

There was no sunshine in Florida on Saturday for any 2024 Republican candidate calling out former President .

A combative was loudly booed as soon as he took the stage and throughout his remarks at the Florida Freedom Summit in Kissimmee, as Trump maintains his dominance in the state amid a string of fresh endorsements. Before the former New Jersey governor had his time at the podium, , the former governor of Arkansas, faced similar jeering when he evoked Trump’s legal troubles.

The response is nothing new for the 2024 contenders when it comes to throwing jabs at Trump. It speaks to how challenging the landscape remains for candidates vying for the 2024 GOP nomination as Trump maintains a strong hold on the Republican Party.

Christie fed off the animated crowd, fueling more boos as he challenged audience members’ reactions to his remarks.

“The problem is, you want to shout down any voice that says anything different than what you want to hear. You can continue to do it, and believe me — believe me, it doesn’t bother me one bit,” Christie said before pivoting to Israel.

He also talked about the country’s more than $33 trillion debt, noting that $13 trillion has been added in the last 6.5 years. Christie said the country needs a leader that will stand against more spending, while chatter in the audience began again.

With each disruption, the New Jersey Republican fired back until he left the stage at the conclusion of his remarks.

“You can yell and boo about it as much as you like, but it doesn’t change the truth. And the truth is coming. The truth is coming, and all of you need to understand: America needs better than what we’ve had. And it never makes America a better place, whether it’s on a college campus in an Ivy League or whether it’s in an auditorium in Orlando, for us to be booing and shouting down opinions we don’t agree with,” Christie said.

Hutchinson didn’t face immediate blowback from the crowd, but once he broached Trump’s legal challenges, the audience erupted into intense booing for over a minute. He pointed to his experience as a federal prosecutor, and even as the crowd roared, Hutchinson attempted to speak over them until he finished his point.

“I can say that there is a significant likelihood that Donald Trump will be found guilty by a jury on a felony offense next year. That may or may not happen before you vote in March. And it might not make any difference to you,” he said. “But it will make a difference for our chances to attract independent voters in November. It will make a difference for those down-ticket races for Congress and Senate. And it will weaken the GOP for decades to come.”

The audience will also hear from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s trailing the former president in national polls as Trump tries to weaken him in their shared home state. Vivek Ramaswamy and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott will speak after DeSantis, and Trump will finish the GOP cattle call as the event’s final speaker.

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