UPDATED, 3:20 PM
GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney picked up perhaps the most coveted endorsement in the Republican world when Gov. Christie endorsed him in New Hampshire this afternoon.
Christie said: "The president of the United States has unleashed his campaign strategy already and that is to divide America...I know that Mitt Romney believes the American Pie can be grown bigger, can be of infinite size...the American people will decide if they want to believe in American optimism or American division."
At the press conference announcing the endorsement, Christie took an immediate swing at Romney rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, when answering a question about Perry's association with a pastor who called Mormonism a "cult." Romney is Mormon, and Christie said such religious divisiveness is "beneath the office of the president of United States."
Christie flirted with a presidential run earlier this month and delivered a big speech at the Reagan Presidential Library in California, but he ultimately backed out at a highly-publicized news conference last week. The flurry of presidential speculation only seemed to increase Christie's stock among Republicans nationally, making him a highly sought endorsement.
The Inquirer's Tom Fitzgerald, on the ground in New Hampshire, reports that last Saturday Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, hosted Mitt and Anne Romney at the Christie home in Mendham. That's when Christie told the Romneys the good news, according to a senior Romney adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Romney was always considered the obvious pick for Christie if he were to endorse someone. They're both northeastern Republicans considered to be moderate, and they both focus on fiscal rather than social issues. Following this endorsement, expect speculation on what this means for Christie if Romney gets the nomination. How does Vice President Christie sound? Or does Attorney General Christie make more sense?
The Texas Gov. Rick Perry campaign released this statement today about the Christie endorsement: “Gov. Perry has the utmost respect for Gov. Christie and looks forward to his help unseating President Obama next year. Until then, Gov. Perry will continue traveling the country talking about job creation and getting America working again. Rick Perry is the only candidate with a proven record of job creation, restraining spending, and lowering taxes to encourage strong economic growth and opportunity."
Today's announcement was parodied, ahead of time, by Saturday Night Live this weekend: