New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Mitt Romney this week, easily the most sought after nod in the 2012 Republican presidential race. Here's the reasoning behind this early endorsement.
The timing was two-fold. Christie made the endorsement when it would have the most impact. Christie's stock was at its highest, two weeks removed from his renowned Reagan Library speech and one week after he disappointed many within his party by announcing he would not seek the presidency in 2012.
The fact that Christie endorsed Romney on the same day as the Bloomberg/Wall Street Journal Republican debate maximized its media echo.
The timing may have been accelerated in reaction to the still-stinging statements by Texas Pastor Robert Jeffress, a Rick Perry supporter who lamented Romney's LDS faith as a "cult" on a host of national media shows.
Christie, who is Roman Catholic, is undoubtedly aware of some of the turbulence over religious tolerance in the 1960s, even if he was too young himself to remember it first-hand.
This is not the first time Christie took a stand on religion: when he appointed a Muslim American attorney to a superior court judgeship this summer, he responded to a few vocal critics on the right by stating, "This Sharia-law business is crap. It's just crazy." He added that it was unforgiveable to "accus[e] this guy of things just because of his religious background."
When endorsing Romney, Christie reacted similarly to Pastor Jeffress, stating "These type of religious matters have nothing to do with the quality of somebody's ability to lead," and that any campaign which fails to condemn it is "beneath the Office of the President." By that, he meant Perry personally.
Christie's decision to back Romney was not based upon religion, but it certainly affected the timing and tenacity of his endorsement.
Christie made the political calculation that his endorsement would be wasted on Perry, because he believes Perry is a longshot to defeat President Obama in the general election. The thinking is, Romney may or may not win the nomination, but if he does, he could win the whole thing. And there are vice presidential and cabinet considerations wrapped up in that gambit.
Second, Romney is the more predictable horse. Perry's meteoric rise faltered after his criticism of Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme," his series of lackluster debates, and his campaign's unpolished handling of a racially-offensive story concerning Perry's family's hunting camp. As pundit Chris Matthews said, if Perry is the nominee, Republicans would go to bed each night nervous that Perry would do something to destroy his campaign by the morning.
Most of all, far beyond any political posturing or notions of self-gain, Christie honestly believes Romney will be the best president among the Republican field of candidates. This belief, above all, guided his decision to endorse Romney. Christie praised Romney's vast experience in the private and public sectors and his record of economic acumen. He also defended Romney's record of making tough choices while governor which Romney believed were the right things to do for his state at the time.
Additionally, Christie probably considered "the vision thing." With his endorsement, Christie placed his stake in the future direction of the Republican Party. Christie sees the party veering off the rails with inflexible, Tea Party-driven dogma. Romney represents the party establishment which favors intelligence and experience and is willing to compromise to achieve its goals of governance.
Christie believes the job of President requires these traits, which he views not as moderation but as maturity. The other members of the new Republican "Round Table" -- Paul Ryan, Haley Barbour, Jeb Bush and others -- are likely to add their endorsements soon.
Adam Silbert is an attorney and was a deputy field organizer for the 2008 Obama campaign.