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New Jersey Gov. Christie Endorses Trump In Republican Race


It's been a whirlwind 24 hours for the Republicans running for president. We start first with today's news, a blockbuster endorsement for frontrunner Donald Trump. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, himself a candidate just a few weeks ago, has come out in favor of Trump, as NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: First the Trump campaign alerted reporters that the candidate would hold a press conference this morning in Fort Worth, Texas, teasing that a big announcement was coming, but nobody expected him to walk into the room with his former rival, Chris Christie, who dropped out of the presidential race two weeks ago.


DONALD TRUMP: He's a real talent, and I would like to introduce him because he's going to say something that I think you'll find very, very interesting.

GONYEA: Christie stepped up to the mic.


CHRIS CHRISTIE: I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States. I'm doing this for a number of reasons. First is that Donald and I, along with Melania and Mary Pat, have been friends for over a decade.

GONYEA: Melania and Mary Pat, of course, are Trump's and Christie's spouses. The small-talk quickly gave way to politics.


CHRISTIE: The one person that Hillary and Bill Clinton do not want to see on that stage come next September is Donald Trump. They know how to run the standard political playbook against junior senators and run them around the block. They do not know the playbook with Donald Trump because he is rewriting the playbook.

GONYEA: The junior senators he refers to are Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Trump's two major remaining challengers. There were questions about whether a deal had been cut to name Christie as Trump's running mate.


TRUMP: We'd never even had that discussion. Chris called. We have this great relationship. And I just said, wow, that is really great.

GONYEA: For his part, Christie answered the veep question by saying he'll remain governor until January 2018...


CHRISTIE: And then go into private life and make money like Trump. That's what I intend to do.


GONYEA: All of this came just 12 hours after the end of last night's debate - a raucous, insult-filled contest where Rubio mocked Trump for offering no specifics and for simply repeating phrases like we're going to win. Rubio continued that tone this morning at his own campaign event in Texas, describing Trump's backstage routine at the debate.


MARCO RUBIO: First he had this little makeup thing applying, like, makeup around his mustache 'cause he had one of those sweat mustaches. Then - then he asked for a full-length mirror. I don't why 'cause the podium goes up to here, but he wanted a full-length mirror - maybe to make sure his pants weren't wet. I don't know.


GONYEA: Rubio seemed to be channeling Donald Trump there. Christie reacted.


CHRISTIE: Desperate people in campaigns do desperate things - flailing punches in the last days of a losing campaign.

GONYEA: Chris Christie has history with Rubio. He rattled the Florida senator during a debate three days before the New Hampshire primary. Today, Rubio has momentum from strong reviews he got after last night's debate. Enter Christie, trying to puncture that balloon. Now, Christie had his differences with Trump while he was running, including over Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. Christie was on the "Michael Medved" radio show in December.


CHRISTIE: You do not need to be banning Muslims from the country. In my view, that's a ridiculous position and one that won't even be productive.

GONYEA: But now that is all in the past, and today Christie joined the road show, introducing Trump at a massive rally in Fort Worth.


CHRISTIE: It is my honor and my privilege to introduce the next president of the United States, Donald Trump.


GONYEA: From there, Trump and Christie headed to Oklahoma for another rally. Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.