LEBANON, N.H. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who just days ago was seen as a potentially big threat to Mitt Romney's bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, endorsed Romney on Tuesday.
"America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney's the man we need to lead America and we need him now," Christie told a news conference at a Courtyard hotel in this western New Hampshire city.
Hours before Republican presidential contenders were to meet a few miles away for a debate on economic issues at Dartmouth College in Hanover, Christie cited Romney's experience as a business executive and as a former governor of Massachusetts.
"We know that he brings the best of both to what we need for America right now," Christie said.
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Romney praised Christie as a "real hero in Republican circles" and someone who's forthright and has a following around the country.
Romney backers said the two men and their supporters had been discussing the campaign for some time, and had many friends — notably Wall Street-connected donors — in common.
The endorsement gives an important boost to Romney, probably tightening his already strong hold on Republican voters in New Hampshire, traditionally the site of the nation's first presidential primary, as well as elsewhere in the Northeast, which both men call home.
Romney had a commanding 25-point lead over his next nearest competitor among likely GOP voters in the Sept. 26-Oct. 6 Granite State WMUR poll, but the survey also found that 68 percent hadn't made final decisions on whom to support.
Christie, 49, had been insisting all year that he wasn't interested in pursuing the White House this year. But Romney has been unable to go much above 30 percent in most national Republican presidential preference polls or above 40 percent in New Hampshire surveys, and many party insiders saw the plainspoken Christie as a viable alternative. Weeks ago he began rethinking his decision not to run, but he told a news conference last week that he wanted to remain governor, saying, "Now is not my time" to run for president.
Polls suggested that Christie would have entered the race as a top-tier candidate, challenging Romney and probably Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a conservative favorite. Many conservatives are suspicious of Romney's record as Massachusetts governor and found Christie's blunt style refreshingly authentic.
Among other things, Romney signed into law a health care plan that required nearly everyone in Massachusetts to obtain coverage. The law is seen as a model for the 2010 federal health care law, which Republicans loathe.
At the Perry campaign, communications director Ray Sullivan said, "Gov. Perry has the utmost respect for Gov. Christie and looks forward to his help unseating President Obama next year."
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