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Despite his exit, Christie dramatically altered the Republican race

Updated

Chris Christie couldn’t get it done this time. He dropped out of the presidential race the day after the New Hampshire Republican primary.

But Christie might have done more to alter the outcome of the Republican field than any other candidate so far.

Realizing that Marco Rubio was an obstacle to his success after the Florida senator’s strong finish in the Iowa caucuses, Christie was the first one to glob onto a stinging criticism that actually gained traction and injured the first-term senator’s campaign.

The presidential campaign: Chris Christie
Christie has been polling in the single digits nationally, but his campaign has seen a boomlet — at least in the early voting state of New Hampshire
Not even 12 hours after Rubio’s better-than-expected third place finish in Iowa, Christie attacked. He called Rubio “the boy in the bubble.”

“It’s time for him to man up and step up and stop letting all of his handlers write his speeches and handle it because that’s what you have to do for someone who has never done anything in his life,” Christie said of Rubio.

Later that day he said Rubio is “flip-flopping all over the place.”

Christie didn’t let up. He repeatedly attacked Rubio for being shallow and inexperienced.

Two days later on Fox News Christie said Rubio’s campaign consists of “a lot of pre-canned answers.”

Then he hit the issue home during Saturday night’s debate in Manchester.

“See Marco, the thing is this. When you’re president of the United States, when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person,” he said.

Rubio then completed the narrative Christie created. He repeated the same canned line at least four times during Saturday’s debate. It was the perfect intersection of effective political debasing.

Without Christie’s focus on Rubio’s weakness, it’s a lot less likely that television networks aired Rubio’s “glitch” or that Rubiobots followed Rubio around New Hampshire were a lot less likely. By repeating his critique, the issue became fodder for something that was thought but rarely articulated.

The final two days on the trail before the New Hampshire primary, Rubio appeared lifeless and demoralized. He had hoped to place second in New Hampshire but finished a disappointing fifth place.

The tragedy for Christie, however, is that while he was instrumental in taking down Rubio in the Granite State, he was unable to save his own campaign. He won a measly 21,000 votes in a state where he spent more time than any Republican presidential candidate.

Christie won’t be the Republican nominee. But we might have ensured that Rubio won’t be either.

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

Chris Christie

Despite his exit, Christie dramatically altered the Republican race

Updated