U.S. Elections 2016

Christie declares support for Trump, war on Rubio

Mr Trump (left) speaking next to Mr Christie at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, where Mr Christie endorsed the Republican front runner's presidential candidacy. Party elders expressed dismay, calling it a political marriage of expedience.
Mr Trump (left) speaking next to Mr Christie at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, where Mr Christie endorsed the Republican front runner's presidential candidacy. Party elders expressed dismay, calling it a political marriage of expedience.PHOTO: REUTERS

New Jersey Governor's endorsement opens up network of donors, advisers for front runner

NEW YORK • In a rollicking day of spectacle, spite and scorn, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey declared his allegiance to Mr Donald Trump and war on Mr Marco Rubio, describing the senator on Friday as desperate and unfit for the presidency.

The endorsement from Mr Christie opens up a wide network of donors, advisers and prominent elected officials whom Mr Trump has not been able to attract to his unorthodox bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

In doing so, Mr Christie openly defied Republican attempts to isolate Mr Trump as an unsavoury party crasher and handed the front runner an inexhaustible, media-savvy surrogate who pledged to travel the country campaigning for Mr Trump and savaging his rivals.

The endorsement interrupted a 48-hour assault from an emboldened Mr Rubio, who is adopting many of the billionaire's crude tactics and colourful insults as he tries to arrest Mr Trump's march to the Republican nomination.

In the span of a few hours across Texas, Mr Rubio suggested that Mr Trump had urinated in his trousers and used immigrant labour to tap out his unceasing Twitter messages. Mr Trump countered by suggesting that Mr Rubio's excessive perspiration had no place in the White House, brandishing a water bottle to mock the senator's chronic thirst.

In the span of a few hours across Texas, Mr Rubio suggested that Mr Trump had urinated in his trousers and used immigrant labour to tap out his unceasing Twitter messages. Mr Trump countered by suggesting that Mr Rubio's excessive perspiration had no place in the White House, brandishing a water bottle to mock the senator's chronic thirst.

But Mr Rubio did not count on Mr Christie, a totem of the North-eastern Republican establishment, bolting to Mr Trump's side on Friday and delivering the businessman's biggest endorsement. Mr Christie wasted little time in pursuing Mr Rubio - a first-term Florida senator whom he holds in contempt for stealing his donors, knee-capping his campaign with brutal ads in New Hampshire and repeatedly surpassing him in the polls.

Brushing off Mr Rubio's pugnacious turn, Mr Christie derided it as a fake, consultant-driven performance. "Part of his talking points is to be entertaining and smile a lot now," Mr Christie said. "Listen, it's one act after another."

Behind the scenes, Mr Trump had diligently courted Mr Christie over the phone and in person over the past few weeks, despite the billionaire's frequent dismissal of endorsements and the blandishments required to obtain them.

During a joint appearance in Fort Worth, Texas, Mr Christie described his support as a gesture of loyalty to an old friend and an assessment of who stood the best chance of defeating the Democratic nominee in November.

Party elders expressed dismay over the alliance, calling it a political marriage of expedience.

"Good Lord almighty," said Mr Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, who is backing Governor John Kasich. "Now it's the walls and bridges team," he quipped.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 28, 2016, with the headline 'Christie declares support for Trump, war on Rubio'. Print Edition | Subscribe