Chris Christie has endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential bid, giving Trump his highest nod yet from a Republican elected official.
The endorsement was announced at an event on Friday in Fort Worth, Texas, and came as a surprise to many in the media.
Christie, the governor of New Jersey, was viewed as an establishment figure when he entered the race, even though his pugnacious style has similarities to Trump’s biting discourse.
“I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States,” Christie told reporters at a press conference.
He said that Trump “is someone who, when he makes a promise, he keeps it.”
He added that Trump would be better positioned to go up against Hillary Clinton in a general election.
Hillary and Bill Clinton, Christie said, “know how to run the standard political playbook around junior senators and run them around the block,” a reference to Trump’s GOP rivals, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
Christie’s endorsement immediately fueled speculation that he would be a strong contender to serve as Trump’s running mate, or even that some kind of deal was struck.
The announcement seemed timed to blunt attacks coming from Rubio. During Thursday’s GOP debate, Rubio launched a fusillade of attacks on Trump, over everything from his insults, to reports that he hired illegal Polish labor. Rubio continued the onslaught on Friday, labelling Trump a “con artist.” At one event, Rubio even read a series of Trump’s tweets, perhaps a play on a popular segment from “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” with Rubio riffing on Trump’s misspelled words.
Both Trump and Christie went after Rubio at their press conference. Trump has labeled Rubio “Mr. Meltdown” and “a choker.” He slammed the Florida senator for wearing too much makeup at the debate, accusing him of “putting it on with a trowel” backstage. Earlier, Rubio had accused Trump of having a “meltdown” and seeking makeup to cover up upper lip sweat and also requesting a full-length mirror “maybe to make sure his pants weren’t wet.”
It was Christie who attacked Rubio in a Feb. 6 debate before the New Hampshire primary, in which Rubio responded by giving the same scripted answer. Rubio later acknowledged the moment as a misstep, but he turned the tables on Trump at Thursday’s debate. After Trump gave a simple explanation of his healthcare plan, Rubio pressed him for details, and when Trump gave the same answer, Rubio noted at he was “repeating himself.”
“I see him repeat himself every night. He says five things. Everyone’s dumb, he’s gonna make America great again, we’re gonna win, win, win. He’s winning in the polls.”
In his speech on Friday after Christie’s endorsement, Trump’s attacks on Rubio were like a series of Don Rickles-like one-liners, particularly when it comes to Rubio’s propensity to perspire.
“It looked like he was jumping into a swimming pool with his clothes on,” Trump said.
Then: “And I looked at the puddle on the ground and I thought, ‘What is that?'”
But Newt Gingrich, a candidate in 2012 who sought to ride anti-establish unhappiness with Mitt Romney, tweeted that Christie’s endorsement was significant.
“This Chris Christie endorsement of Trump is real signal to GOP establishment that they had better begin thinking about Trump as the future,” Gingrich wrote.