Chris Christie Endorses Donald Trump, Donald Trump Steals Post-Debate News Cycle
In what may be the most surprising twist yet in a campaign that has defied convention, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared at at press conference in Fort Worth, Texas and endorsed Donald Trump for President:
FORT WORTH, Tex. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Friday received the high-profile endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a stunning blow to the four remaining Republican White House hopefuls who are urgently hoping to stymie the billionaire’s path to the nomination.
“I’ve gotten to know all the people on that stage, and 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 said during a news conference with Trump here in Fort Worth.
The surprise endorsement comes as the Trump campaign continues its charge toward the Republican nomination. A strong showing in the March 1 “Super Tuesday” primaries, when 11 states will cast ballots in the GOP race, could dramatically expand Trump’s delegate lead.
The New Jersey governor’s endorsement could potentially recast the GOP nominating contest yet again, giving Trump — already the undisputed front-runner — the weight and validation of a respected Republican executive officeholder who once himself raised questions about the candidate’s readiness to take office. Trump’s critics have persistently scrutinized his grasp of public policy and his bombastic style.
“Donald Trump is someone who when he makes a promise, he keeps it,” Christie said. “No one is going to get inside this guy’s head. There is no better fighter than Donald Trump.”
Christie said that he believes the party needs to elect the candidate most likely to beat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. Trump, the governor said, is “undoubtedly” the best person for the job and “is rewriting the playbook of American politics.”
Christie said that he finalized his decision to come out in support of Trump after ending his own presidential campaign. He said he sat down with his family to discuss their role in the campaign moving forward and concluded “it was clear the only choice was Donald Trump, the best choice was Donald Trump.”
Both Christie and Trump emphasized that they have known each other for years both personally and professionally. Trump and Christie finalized the endorsement Thursday, they told reporters.The surprise backing is a blow to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is seeking to become the main challenger to Trump for the Republican nomination. On Friday, Christie blasted Rubio’s escalating personal attacks against the billionaire, calling them an act of desperation. Christie added that Rubio represents the Washington establishment.
“I find it fascinating that somebody who barely shows up for work … is going to talk about somebody being unprepared,” Christie said.
“He’s a desperate guy,” Trump added later. “He is not presidential material. He doesn’t have the demeanor. He is a nervous nellie.”
Trump dismissed a question from reporters about whether Christie was being considered for the vice presidential nomination or for a Cabinet position, saying that they never discussed that when Christie called to offer his endorsement. The governor said he is committed to fulfilling his term in office, which ends in 2018.
Christie has largely been quiet in the two weeks since he dropped out of the race in the wake of a disappointing sixth place finish in the New Hampshire Primary, where he had pinned most of his own hopes for a viable campaign going forward, and to the extent that he has been in the news since then it has been in stories focused on his efforts to repair his political standing back in New Jersey and move forward with the business of the state. When he did drop out, there had been some speculation that he would turn around and offer an endorsement and the conventional wisdom at the time was that he would end up endorsing an “establishment” candidate like Jeb Bush or John Kasich if he endorsed anyone at all. Given the fact that both of these candidates comes from the same general wing of the Republican Party that Christie does, it would be the kind of endorsement that would make complete sense. For that matter, a Christie endorsement of Marco Rubio, notwithstanding the now legendary debate showdown the two men had at the debate before the New Hampshire Primary, would make sense given Rubio’s ties to Bush and the fact that much of the party establishment seems to be rallying behind the Florida Senator in what is basically a last ditch attempt to stop Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Christie endorsing Trump is, quite honestly, a truly surprising move on Christie’s part that makes one wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of the GOP establishment making its peace with Donald Trump as it becomes more likely that he will be the Republican nominee. It was just yesterday that Trump received his first endorsements from Members of Congress, specifically from California Congressman Duncan Hunter and New York Congressman Chris Collins, and it was just last week that Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that he believed he could work with a President Trump and there have been reports that other Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have been saying for weeks now that they would prefer Trump to Cruz because they believed they could make deals with Trump whereas Cruz has proven himself to be completely unwilling to engage in deal making and compromise. Given that, I would expect that this Christie endorsement is just the beginning of the endorsements that will be coming Trump’s way in the near future.
As a general rule, I am not one who believes that endorsements from politicians and failed candidates for office matter very much in the grand scheme of an election. The average voter doesn’t make their decision on who to vote for based on an endorsement from some other politician, and in this particular case it seems unlikely that Chris Christie endorsing Trump is going to influence many voters in Texas or many of the others Super Tuesday states. That being said, I can see several respects in which Chris Christie endorsing Trump can help the campaign going forward. First of all, as he proved in New Jersey in 2009 and 2013, during the 2014 election when he engaged in campaigning for many Republican Governors as head of the Republican Governor’s Association, and in the one-on-one campaigning he did in New Hampshire since entering the Presidential race, Christie can be a very effective campaigner when he wants to be. Properly deployed in states in the Northeast and Midwest he could be an effective surrogate for Trump in several states. Second, Christie’s contacts with several top Republican donors such as Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone could be useful in holding off the donor class from rallying behind Rubio or Cruz in a last ditch “Stop Trump” effort.
Finally, and perhaps of most immediate importance for next week’s Super Tuesday primary, today’s surprise announcement of the Christie endorsement has effectively ended what had the potential to be a somewhat bad news cycle for Trump in the wake of last night’s debate. All morning, the political news coverage was essentially non-stop coverage of the dual attacks on Trump by Rubio and Cruz, attacks which Rubio continued this morning. That’s over now thanks to Chris Christie and what appears to be a return of the old Donald Trump at the political rally that followed the joint news conference announcing the endorsement. Whatever benefit Rubio may have hoped to get from the debate may be completely muted now, and that’s probably exactly what Trump intended. Say what you will about Donald Trump’s politics, but I haven’t seen anyone more adept at handling the political media since the days of Michael Deaver and Lee Atwater. Trump has been a media master for decades now, and he’s putting all those skills to use in this campaign. If you can put aside his xenophobia, racism, and the hatred he inspires in people, it’s possible to be quite impressed just watching it. Then you wake up and you realize that it has put him on the verge of being the nominee of one of America’s major political parties. And that’s just a bit scary.
Update: Christie’s endorsement appears to have led to another Governor to endorse Trump, specifically Paul LePage of Maine:
Maine Governor Paul LePage just endorsed Donald Trump on Howie Carr radio show
— Ben Terris (@bterris) February 26, 2016
This isn’t entirely surprising since LePage had endorsed Christie for President and has been close to Christie in the past.