One week after officially opting out of the 2012 presidential race, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has jumped back into the spotlight with an enthusiastic endorsement for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Appearing in New Hampshire this afternoon, just hours before tonight’s presidential debate, Christie called Romney “the man to lead America.”
“I’m here in New Hampshire today for one reason,” Christie said. “America cannot survive another four years of Barack Obama.”
Christie’s endorsement is a major get for the Romney campaign that could boost his populist appeal. The move is already sparking VP speculation, although Christie has said he is not interested in being on the ticket at all in 2012.
Still, the straight-talking New Jersey Governor immediately slipped into the attack dog role today, defending Romney’s positions — and religion — much better than Romney himself has done.
On Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare reform — his biggest political liability — Christie offered a strong defence:
“Any attempt to compare what happened in Massachusetts to the healthcare reform passed by the President is completely intellectually dishonest,” Christie said. “I am proud of him for standing up and doing what he thought was right…I am not going to LET them compare that happened in Massachusetts with the law passed by the federal government.”
Christie also came down hard on Texas Gov. Rick Perry for accepting the endorsement of Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, an anti-Mormon Evangelical leader who last week referred to Mormonism as a “cult.”
“Anybody who associates themselves with that kind of person has no place in the presidency,” Christie said.
Christie’s remarks appeared to embolden Romney, who then called on Perry to “repudiate” Jeffress. Romney has, until now, declined to answer questions about the incident, and tends to avoid questions about his religion in general.
But Perry isn’t backing down. Shortly after Romney’s press conference, Perry, through a spokesman, refused to disavow Jeffress.
“Governor Perry is going to focus his campaign on improving the economy and creating jobs, issues that matter to Americans,” spokesman Mark Miner told Politico. “Mitt Romney’s comments are a distraction from the the fact that Romneycare served as a blueprint for Obamacare.”
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