As I’ve watched documentaries about the 2016 presidential election, one thing I noticed is that Donald Trump methodically took out each primary opponent until he was the last one standing. He would observe each candidate during the debates (and probably behind closed doors, the way football coaches study the opponents’ game tapes), decide which one was the weakest, single them out for attacks, give them a derogatory nickname, and then essentially mock them out of the race.

One thing I didn’t note at the time was that Chris Christie, who was the first to exit the race, never received a nickname from Trump. In an appearance at the Reagan Library on Saturday, Christie shared his theory on why Trump nicknames some opponents and not others.

“You’ll notice that I never got a nickname. Right? Now, Low Energy Jeb!, Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, Crazy John. Right? They all got nicknames.  I never got a nickname, and I know why. He doesn’t give nicknames to people who he thinks will come back at him and who he thinks will be a problem.

“And the example of that today, to prove that point, is Nancy Pelosi. No nickname for her, right? We’re deep into this now. I’m ready to tell you right now she will not get a nickname. And he won’t get a nickname because he’s like, ‘Hmm, she’s formidable.’ Cryin’ Chuck Schumer? He could care less. No problem.”

Many political observers believed Christie’s early exit and quick endorsement of Trump was another sign of his lack of spine Christie had just been slammed by Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush as a wimp who caters to Democrats, using his “hug” of Barack Obama and holding Nancy Pelosi’s hand at a prayer service as examples. Christie says that Trump knew he would come back at him and could be a problem, and that’s why he never got a nickname.

“The example that I give to you to amplify that point is, on the night of the last debate before New Hampshire you may recall that I had a somewhat memorable encounter with Sen. Rubio.”

During the commercial break, Christie was curious to know how the exchange came across to others. Debate rules prohibit candidates from talking to their staff during commercial breaks, but they can talk to their families. So, Christie decided to ask his wife and two youngest children for their take.

I kneeled down [at the edge of the stage] and I said, “So, how’d it go?”

His wife replied:

“How did it go? Oh, my God. His career is over. Like, you just ended Marco Rubio’s career in front of the entire country. He should just quietly go home, and you should say nothing the rest of the night. Just go up there and when they come to you, say pass. Because you can’t do better than you’ve done.”

Agreeing, his youngest said, “It sounded like you were talking to one of us.” As Christie was taking their comments in, Trump tapped him on the shoulder, saying:

“‘Oh my God. Don’t ever, ever get mad at me.’ He said, ‘Poor Little Marco. I thought he was gonna pass out, and I was gonna have to catch him. And then you leaned on the podium, and you looked down at him. It looked like you were Perry Mason. And then you hit him again. That was like the punch Ali didn’t give to Liston as he was going down. It was unbelievable. Don’t ever get mad at me.’

“And that’s why no nickname for me. Because there’s plenty of possibilities. But to this day, still no nickname from the President. Just Chris. That’s it.”

You really need to watch Christie tell the story:

Watch Chris Christie take down Marco Rubio:

Follow Jennifer on Twitter @jenvanlaar or on Facebook.