ANALYSIS | Following months of public flirtation with running for president, Chris Christie again renounced his intentions to seek the nation's highest office on Oct. 4. However, the first-term governor of New Jersey was not prepared to surrender the spotlight of a presidential campaign. Just one week later, Christie traveled to New Hampshire to endorse GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney on the day of a critical debate in that state.
Here are three potential effects of Gov. Christie's endorsement:
Reaffirms Romney's status with the establishment: Prior to taking office as governor of New Jersey in January 2010, Christie enjoyed a rapid political rise, aided by ties with former President George W. Bush. Christie was a top fundraiser for Bush during his election in 2000 and his loyalty was rewarded with an appointment as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. In this high profile position, Christie worked closely with the administration and forged goodwill with many Republican power-brokers. Many of these insiders hoped Chris Christie would launch a presidential bid and crystallize support in what has been muddy water. By instead endorsing Romney, backers of the former Massachusetts governor hope these same individuals will rally to their candidate's side. As a veteran of the campaign of 2008, Mitt Romney was already the favorite for such support. Christie's endorsement makes his case that much stronger.
Increases Romney's fundraising capacity: Building on the prior theme, the support of Chris Christie likely improves the fundraising potential of the Romney campaign. Already the clear leader in raising funds among the GOP's crop of candidates, Mitt Romney now has a valuable ally in reaching out to powerful donors in New Jersey, neighboring New York, and beyond. Christie's rolodex includes plenty of business titans, such as Jack Welch - former CEO of General Electric - and the Koch Brothers. The timing of acquiring this asset could not be better. Not only is Romney locked in a head-to-head struggle with Rick Perry, but the Texas governor actually out-raised his rival during the quarter that ended in September. If Christie actively works the phones, he could reverse that momentum.
Questions Romney's credentials with the base: The endorsement of Chris Christie should not be considered unquestionably positive. Indeed, critics chanted an "I told you so" chorus as soon as the announcement unfolded. Many Tea Party conservatives have long questioned the purity of Christie's beliefs. Some have even labeled him a "RINO" (Republican In Name Only). While the Tea Party Movement may not be the establishment, polls reveal it has become the GOP's base. Such voters were already cynical of the Massachusetts Republican because of past support for state-mandated health care. The support of Christie could further alienate conservative voters, just when Romney was gaining traction with the base. Mitt Romney would be wise to tailor use of his new supporter carefully. While Governor Christie's endorsement may help in the swing state of New Hampshire, it will be less effective in the conservative South.