New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Friday, the latest sign that Republicans are beginning to accept the idea that the real estate magnate may win the party's nomination.
"I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States," Christie said at a news conference alongside the businessman, explaining that he has been friends with Trump for over a decade. "I absolutely appreciate him as a person and as a friend."
But the endorsement extended beyond the personal, and Christie said he believed that "there is no one who is better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs, both at home and around the world, than Donald Trump."
Among the field of GOP candidates — which also includes Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and retired doctor Ben Carson — Trump is "the clear standout, and the person who will do exactly what needs to be done to make America a leader around the world again," Christie said.
In fact, Christie said establishment favorite Rubio is "desperate" and that his attacks on Trump during Thursday's debate would not succeed: "Nobody is going to get inside this guy's head," Christie said of his presidential pick.
"Senator Rubio has shown himself over the course of time to be wholly unprepared to be president of the United States," Christie said — just as many pundits and GOP notables had begun to rally around the senator as Trump's primary competition.
Christie's endorsement of Trump — which follows consecutive wins in the Nevada caucus, and primaries in South Carolina and New Hampshire — may indicate Republican politicians are reconciling themselves to the fact that the businessman is in a strong position to become the party's standard-bearer.
"He'll provide strong, unequivocal leadership, he will do what needs to be done to protect the American people first and foremost, both in the homeland and in creating jobs for this country, and he will make sure that people around the world know that America keeps its word again," Christie said of his one-time competitor. "Donald Trump is someone, who when he makes a promise, he keeps it."
Christie added that Trump is the candidate Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton fear the most: "They do not know the playbook with Donald Trump because he is rewriting the playbook."
"He is rewriting the playbook of American politics because he's providing strong leadership that's not dependent upon the status quo," he added.
Christie concluded his endorsement by thanking Trump "for being willing to step out of the private sector and come and offer himself for public service and for leadership in this country at a time when our party and nation so desperately needs it."
The Democratic National Committee said Christie's endorsement was "the best example yet that the GOP is the party of Trump."
"The Republican field just isn't serious and all its candidates have major problems heading into November," DNC National Press Secretary Mark Paustenbach said in a statement. "If anyone is wetting their pants, as Rubio suggested today, it's the Republican establishment. This is yuuge."