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Surprise: Chris Christie to Endorse...Romney

This was essentially a fait accompli the moment Christie confirmed -- for the umpteenth time -- that he wasn't getting into the race himself.  A big GOP fish makes a cannonball-sized splash for Team Romney on debate day:


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, just one week after definitively announcing he will not run for president in the 2012 race, plans to endorse Mitt Romney for the job Tuesday afternoon, Fox News has learned.  The event is set to take place in Hanover, N.H., the site of the Republican presidential debate being held Tuesday night. The endorsement will be made in advance of the debate.  Marking a fast turnaround for Romney, the endorsement comes one week to the day since Christie called a press conference in Trenton to end once and for all the speculation that he would make a late entrance into the race. 

Christie for months had said he would not run, but acknowledged that encouragement from others had him rethinking the decision in recent weeks. But he said he never changed his mind, and determined he had too much unfinished business to take care of in his home state.   The endorsement of Romney should leave no doubt that Christie is out as a potential candidate, but in as a potential high-profile surrogate for the former Massachusetts governor.

As I suggested above, one Northeastern Republican Governor endorsing another isn't much of a surprise.  Christie is certainly more pugnacious, conservative, and consistent in his views than the man he's supporting, but Christie ran and won in a blue state by hammering on an economic message, and stressing competence.  Hello, Mitt Romney.  As we've seen in his exceptionally successful dealings with the Democrat-held state legislature in Trenton, Christie places pragmatism above ideology -- even though he applies that pragmatic streak to advancing the ideological ball.  Once he was 100 percent out of contention himself, the Romney endorsement was pretty much inevitable.  And in case there was any doubt, Christie tipped his hand at the Reagan Library when he took a not-so-veiled shot at Rick Perry's "heartless" comment.  Remember this?

The timing of Christie's endorsement raises two intriguing questions: (1) Will the New Jersey Governor be little more than a one-and-done endorser, or will he become a Romney surrogate?  Given Christie's powers of persuasion and salt-of-the-earth glibness, the Romney camp is surely hoping for the latter.  (2)  Why so soon?  Multiple recent polls show Romney with a commanding lead in New Hampshire.  Why did his campaign decide to pull the trigger on rolling out the Christie blessing now?  I would have thought they'd wait for a venue and state where the race was more fluid, and where the endorsement may have packed a bigger punch (Florida comes to mind).  One might surmise that they're nervous about the rise of Herman Cain, but Mitt Romney has done everything within his power to boost Cain -- which strikes me as a strategy to diminish Perry, whose fundraising and organization are probably seen as the biggest sustainable threat by Romney strategists.  Another possibility: Christie might have simply said, "I'm picking Mitt, and I'm doing it now."
Finally, last time the Romney campaign unveiled a significant endorsement, Team Perry shot right back with an even bigger one.  But that was before Perry took his lumps and fell in the polls.  Might the Texas Governor have an ace up his sleeve today?

UPDATE - The Christie news will cause some anti-RINO teeth-gnashing around these parts, but will be a net positive in terms of national coverage.  It will also distract nicely from this little White House document drop:

Newly obtained White House records provide fresh details on how senior Obama administration officials used Mitt Romney’s landmark health-care law in Massachusetts as a model for the new federal law, including recruiting some of Romney’s own health care advisers and experts to help craft the act now derided by Republicans as “Obamacare.”  The records, gleaned from White House visitor logs reviewed by NBC News, show that senior White House officials had a dozen meetings in 2009 with three health-care advisers and experts who helped shape the health care reform law signed by Romney in 2006, when the Republican presidential candidate was governor of Massachusetts. One of those meetings, on July 20, 2009, was in the Oval Office and presided over by President Barack Obama, the records show. 
This news deserves to be a blow to Romney on policy grounds alone.  That being said, consider the source of this leaked information and their political motives.

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