Chris Christie endorses Donald Trump
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey endorsed Donald J. Trump on Friday, a major turn in a wild race and one that gives the New York businessman a significant boost as he heads into the pivotal “Super Tuesday” contests.
Mr. Christie was a candidate for president himself until he came in sixth place in New Hampshire’s primary. Seeing his political career facing an abrupt conclusion after his failed presidential campaign, he expressed his anger Friday at Senator Marco Rubio, whom he was said to be upset with, blaming the “super PAC” backing the Florida senator for halting his momentum in New Hampshire with a string of slash-and-burn ads.
The endorsement came a day after Mr. Rubio, in a withering debate performance, turned his guns on Mr. Trump for the first time, and followed up with his attacks on Friday morning, calling Mr. Trump a “con artist.”
At Friday’s news conference announcing the endorsement, which was peppered with demeaning insults of Mr. Rubio by the two men, Mr. Christie repeatedly attacked Mr. Rubio, calling his behavior at the debate “desperate” and reflective of a “losing campaign.”
Mr. Trump welcomed the endorsement with warm praise for the New Jersey governor.
“He’s been my friend for many years, he’s been a spectacular governor,” said Mr. Trump, standing with Mr. Christie at the news conference, which preceded a Trump rally in Fort Worth that drew at least 8,000 people.
Mr. Trump then turned on Mr. Rubio, saying that at their debate Thursday, he saw Mr. Rubio backstage with “a pile of makeup,” he said. “I said Marco, easy with the makeup, you don’t need that much.”
Mr. Christie, noting he has been friends with Mr. Trump for a decade, said that he was “proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump.”
Mr. Trump “will do exactly what needs to be done to make America a leader around the world again,” he said.
But his backing of Mr. Trump comes after weeks of him saying that it was time for the “entertainment” portion of the race to end, while citing the type of executive leadership that a governor has as most important in electing a president.
Mr. Christie’s endorsement augments Mr. Trump’s appeal for working-class voters. But more significantly, Mr. Christie could become a catalyst for other leading Republicans to back him after they have held back from supporting the developer despite his recent string of victories.
Two people close to Mr. Christie said he made his decision to endorse in the last two days and kept it closely held. He met with Mr. Trump for several hours in Manhattan with his wife, Mary Pat, by his side, according to one person briefed on the meeting. But even before he had made up his mind, Mr. Christie had told people he believed the race was over and Mr. Trump will win the nomination.
Mr. Trump heaped praise on Mr. Christie for tenderizing Mr. Rubio during the final debate in New Hampshire, where the Florida senator wilted under blistering criticism from the governor.
“I thought he was gonna die — good going, Chris,” Mr. Trump said.
Asked what role he would like in a Trump administration, Mr. Christie demurred, before offering a window into his aspirations. He plans to finish his term as governor into 2018, he said, “and then go into private life and make money like Trump.”
Although Mr. Trump and Mr. Christie were fawning over each other on Friday, they were not always so friendly. In December and January, as primary election season was drawing near, Mr. Trump hit Mr. Christie hard over his stewardship of New Jersey’s economy and accused him of having knowledge of the “Bridgegate” lane-closing scandal in his state. Mr. Christie was also tough on Mr. Trump, billing him as an unserious reality television star and calling his plan to ban Muslim immigration “ridiculous.”
And their families have crossed paths at another odd point – Mr. Christie was the federal prosecutor who sent Charles Kushner, the father-in-law of Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, to prison for trying to smear a witness.