Christie Endorsement of Trump Shakes Up GOP Primary
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump at a joint news conference Friday, a shock announcement that marked a new phase of the Republican primary less than one week before the key Super Tuesday contests.
Trump “is rewriting the playbook,” Christie told reporters in Fort Worth, Texas, prior to a rally there for the party’s front-runner. “He is rewriting the playbook of American politics because he's providing strong leadership that is not dependent on the status quo.”
"There is no one who is better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs both at home and around the world than Donald Trump," Christie added.
There were a few signals that Christie might back Trump. He has long characterized the real estate mogul as a personal friend and, even in the throes of the GOP primary, Christie did not attack Trump with the venom he directed at Sen. Marco Rubio and others.
The endorsement also is seen as a huge blow to Rubio – almost equivalent to the one the second-term governor dealt to the Florida senator in the GOP debate before the New Hampshire primary. In his remarks, Christie doubled down on his criticism of Rubio, calling him “desperate.”
“The fact is desperate people do desperate things,” he said of Rubio’s attacks on Trump during Thursday night’s debate.
And Christie’s endorsement suggests that one of Rubio’s few remaining advantages, his support from the Republican establishment, might crack as Trump marches closer to the nomination.
“This Chris Christie endorsement of Trump is real signal to GOP establishment that they had better begin thinking about Trump as the future,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tweeted Friday.
With less than one week until the pivotal Super Tuesday primaries, the announcement marked a surprising and potentially momentous inflection point in the race for president: the first major endorsement of Trump by a Republican Party stalwart. Christie is a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association who was aggressively courted to run for president in 2012, although his candidacy in this election cycle did not gain traction.
"Generally speaking I'm not big on endorsements," Trump said Friday. "This was an endorsement that really meant a lot."
But some Republicans jumped to attack Christie for his decision, pointing out policy differences between Trump and Christie, or casting aspersions on Christie’s motive for backing his onetime rival.
“Like Trump, Chris Christie is a pathetic, corrupt man with a tiny ego,” former Jeb Bush communications director Tim Miller tweeted. “I'm sure they bonded discussing their insecurities over a big meal.”