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Chris Christie endorses Mitt Romney

Holly Bailey, Yahoo News
The Ticket

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Romney and Christie in 2009 (Mel Evans/AP)

In what could be a game changer for Mitt Romney's 2012 bid, Chris Christie endorsed the former Massachusetts governor at an event in New Hampshire today.

"Mitt Romney is the man we need to lead America, and we need him now," Christie said at an afternoon press conference in Hanover, N.H.--the site of tonight's Washington Post/Bloomberg Republican primary debate.

Christie's move comes just a week after he opted against his own bid for the GOP nomination.

While the governor declined to say last week when he might endorse in the contest, there have long been hints he might throw his backing to Romney.

Earlier this year, Christie held a dinner for Romney at the governor's mansion in New Jersey. He's also publicly defended Romney amid criticism over his health care reform efforts in Massachusetts--a defense he repeated again Tuesday, insisting comparisons between Romney's plan and President Obama's health care reforms are "completely intellectually dishonest."

According to the Romney campaign, Romney and his wife, Ann, met with Christie over the weekend in New Jersey, where the governor informed the 2012 hopeful he would back his campaign. Christie flew to New Hampshire earlier Tuesday, where he's set to hold a "tele-town hall" with Romney supporters later tonight.

The big question is whether social conservatives and tea party Republicans who had been hoping Christie would seek the nomination will now take a second look at Romney--just as many of the donors who had been holding out for a possible Christie 2012 bid have now transferred their support to Romney.

On Tuesday, Christie forcefully argued that Romney is the best candidate the party can field against Obama, insisting the country can't take four more years of a Democrat in the White House.

"He's the best person to be able to articulate Republican values and defeat Barack Obama," Christie declared, as Romney stood behind him beaming.

Romney, in turn, called Christie "an American hero"--a compliment that is sure to encourage hopes among Christie supporters that the New Jersey governor might land a spot as Romney's running mate, should he win the Republican nomination.

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