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CEO Daily: Trump scores a bombshell endorsement

Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

At this point in this presidential campaign, it can be reassuring to receive a shock just to know you still have the capacity to register one. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Friday endorsement of Donald Trump was indeed a shock. It vacuumed coverage away from a Trump pledge to gut the First Amendment and a suggestion by a heretofore wonky Marco Rubio that Trump wet himself during their Thursday debate. With good reason. The billionaire’s coup recaptured his momentum in the Republican contest mere hours after Rubio’s debate performance in Houston appeared to wrench it away from him at a decisive moment. The Florida senator’s turn — in which he lacerated Trump relentlessly, and with humor — promised finally to subject the front-runner’s spotty history as a businessman and a political opportunist to some serious and sustained scrutiny. Instead, Christie effected a wholesale turnabout days before voters in the eleven Super Tuesday states stand poised to pad Trump’s delegate lead, a margin that could quickly become insurmountable.

The New Jersey governor’s blessing is the first for Trump from a big-name public official, and it gives him a campaign-trail surrogate who’s proven singularly effective at hobbling Rubio. (Christie is wasting no time getting out there, with appearances today planned in Arkansas and Tennessee.) Yet beyond the tactical dividends his endorsement pays for Trump, its implications for the party itself could be historically profound. Rubio’s Thursday performance, for the briefest instant, heralded a new phase in the campaign, in which a viable contender launched a focused effort, backed by big money, to take out Trump. It may well have been too late. But it would have at least tested the proposition that when united, what remains of the GOP establishment — party leaders, elected officials and moneymen — can still exert some veto power in selecting a standard-bearer.

Christie’s network won’t automatically convey to Trump. It’s likely in fact that his decision permanently damaged some of his relationships in the party. But it’s worth recalling that when Christie first mulled a White House bid five years ago, no less an eminence than Henry Kissinger made a personal appeal for him to run. The roster of corporate leaders from Wall Street and beyond who joined that chorus was similarly gold-plated. Many of them will take seriously an appeal from Christie that Trump represents the party’s best hope. And Christie is already beginning to marshal his finance team for the general election. Rubio hoped to frame his candidacy as the party’s last chance to save itself from a conman. In securing the support of one its brightest stars, Trump may have foreclosed that showdown before it started.

Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

Top News

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Around the Water Cooler

Trump doesn’t want David Duke’s endorsement

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