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Chris Christie Endorses Donald Trump At Fort Worth Rally

Bob Daemmrich
Texas Tribune
Donald Trump and Chris Christie appeared in Fort Worth Friday.

Real estate magnate Donald Trump chose Cowtown as his site to announce perhaps the most high-profile endorsement of his campaign, the support of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. 

"I've gotten to know all the people on that stage, and 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," Christie said, just before introducing Trump to a rally of thousands at the downtown Fort Worth Convention Center. 

Christie, a former GOP nomination rival, is considered an establishment Republican, an insider to party politics and the leader of the GOP's efforts to elect more Republicans governor around the county in the 2014 cycle. 

The endorsement was a tightly held secret until Christie dramatically entered a news conference alongside Trump. 

Reporters' questions  and comments from the two men centered mostly on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Across the Metroplex, Rubio campaigned in Dallas just hours before, mocking Trump.

Another primary rival and the senator of the state where this all took place - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz - was hardly mentioned in the war of words between Trump and Rubio. 

The rally itself drew thousands of fired up North Texans. While not a capacity crowd, it was restive and visibly charged up by the Christie endorsement. 

"Is Texas going to be Trump country?" Christie asked to roars. 

Both at the rally and to reporters, Christie said his aim was to support the candidate who would best keep Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton from "within ten miles of the White House." 

But the endorsement shocked the political world, as Trump is running a mostly populist, outside campaign for the nomination. Christie, in contrast, mostly campaigned for the support of Republican moderates before he dropped out of the race in early February. 

Underscoring Christie's decision is his heated history with Rubio. At a GOP debate last month in New Hampshire, Christie mercilessly mocked the Florida senator's rote talking points.

Trump spent much of Friday's news conference and rally ripping Rubio, and zeroed in on that debate night featuring Christie's attacks. At one point, Trump described his reaction watching Rubio try to debate with Christie as "this guy is cracking up on us."

Trump focused little on Cruz at Friday's rally but did manage to elicit boos from the crowd with just a mention of the Texas Republican's name.

"I've had a lot of difficulties with Ted," he said.

"A guy like Ted is tougher...and he's actually smarter, in all fairness," Trump added, comparing Rubio and Cruz. 

Friday marks the final day of early voting in Texas. Voter will have their last chance to cast a primary vote on Tuesday, Election Day. 

Jose DelReal of The Washington Post contributed to this report. 

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Abby Livingston joined the Tribune in 2014 as the publication's first Washington Bureau Chief. Previously, she covered political campaigns, House leadership and Congress for Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. A seventh-generation Texan, Abby graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. She grew up in Fort Worth and has appeared in an episode of "The Bold and The Beautiful." Abby pitched and produced political segments for CNN and worked as an editor for The Hotline, National Journal’s campaign tipsheet. Abby began her journalism career as a desk assistant at NBC News in Washington, working her way up to the political unit, where she researched stories for Nightly News, the Today Show and Meet the Press. In keeping with the Trib’s great history of hiring softball stars, Abby is a three-time MVP (the most in game history —Ed.) for The Bad News Babes, the women’s press softball team that takes on female members of Congress in the annual Congressional Women’s Softball breast cancer charity game.