The Slatest

Surprise! Chris Christie Just Endorsed Donald Trump.

Chris Christie and Donald Trump share a laugh during a commercial break at the GOP presidential debate at St. Anselm College on Feb. 6 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As far as political surprises go, this is a big one: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Friday officially endorsed Donald Trump for president.

“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 at a news conference with Trump. “He is—looking at the five people on that stage last night—the clear standout, and the person who will do exactly what needs to be done to make America a leader around the world again. He’ll provide strong, unequivocal leadership and 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.”

Christie’s endorsement comes as the rest of the Republican Party is scrambling to rally around Marco Rubio in a last-ditch bid to prevent Trump from marching to the GOP nomination. Before Friday, Trump had the endorsements of only two sitting congressmen. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, had the backing of more than 40 congressmen, more than a dozen senators, and four governors.

The announcement comes at pretty much the worst time for Rubio. The Florida senator seemed to have finally found his footing at Thursday’s debate in Houston, where he hit Trump early and often and generally turned in his best debate performance in months. The Rubio’s Back! news cycle will now be superseded by news of Christie’s Trump endorsement, a development that will have the cable news networks reshowing the Christie-Rubio debate clash that knocked Marco off his feet in the days before New Hampshire, where Trump won and Rubio finished in a distant fifth.

As I wrote after Christie called it quits shortly after that primary, the sitting governor still had one more chance to impact the contest in a way he was unable to when he was still in it: “He could endorse one of his former establishment-minded rivals.” Instead, the New Jersey governor—who spent months competing in the so-called establishment lane with the likes of Rubio, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush—veered across several lanes of thruway traffic to back Trump, a man he once proudly declared “no one in the real world” cared about.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the GOP primary, including: