On a day when the political world was focused on the question of whether Rick Perry could mount a comeback, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has scored a coup that could overshadow even a strong performance by the Texas governor tonight. By getting the endorsement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today, Romney will dominate the political news and add to the growing perception his nomination is inevitable.
Any endorsement — even one from a political star like Christie — can’t change the race or guarantee any votes. It is also true that had he run, Christie would have largely competed with Romney for the backing of centrist Republicans. But his fights with New Jersey’s state worker and teacher unions means Christie has some credibility with Tea Party supporters, the very constituency where Romney is weakest.
Along with the smart timing, the endorsement also feeds into the idea most Republicans have finally come to terms with Romney, a man few conservatives viewed with enthusiasm at the outset of the race. While Romney has a long way to go before his victory can be viewed as a certitude — after all, not a single vote has been cast in a primary or caucus yet — Christie’s endorsement is exactly the sort of momentum booster Romney needed this week. No matter what happens tonight, Romney will wake up tomorrow knowing he is ahead.