Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Wednesday that former President Trump is “afraid” to take the stage in Republican primary debates after Trump, who holds a commanding lead in the GOP polls, floated skipping the events. 

Christie, a former Trump ally who has become one of his more vocal Republican critics, told conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt that the GOP should hold “as many” debates as it can and should have an “open format” to allow for follow-up questions and prevent candidates from giving “soundbyte-y answers that nobody believes will solve any problems.” 

He said Trump should participate in the primary debates because they are about helping the American people decide who is best prepared to become president. 

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Trump is not likely to attend the first two GOP primary debates.

The former president said last week that he did not feel the need to participate, pointing to his polling advantage and what he saw as potential bias against him from those involved. 

“I’m sorry to see that Donald Trump feels like if he gets on the stage, he’s at risk of losing his lead. If, in fact, his ideas are so great, if his leadership is so outstanding, then his lead will only increase if he gets on the stage, not decrease. But obviously, he’s afraid,” Christie said. “He’s afraid to get on the stage against people who are serious. And I’m sorry to see that he’s that afraid of it.” 

Christie has said he is considering his own run for the Republican nomination for president in 2024. He told Hewitt on Wednesday that he would decide whether to run in the next two weeks. 

He said “people should wonder why” Trump does not want to engage in the debates and that he believes Trump does not have “a lot of serious answers” for the problems the country is facing. 

“All he wants to do is go back and reprosecute the 2020 election because his feelings are hurt,” Christie said.