PARSIPPANY, N.J. - Gov. Christie welcomed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to the Garden State on Monday with some seven-figure love.
Christie said a private fund-raiser for Romney in North Jersey brought in $1.1 million to help the candidate compete in early nominating contests such as Iowa's and New Hampshire's. This was the first Romney fund-raiser that Christie has held since endorsing the former Massachusetts governor in October.
"New Jersey tonight is officially Mitt Romney country," Christie said to rousing applause. "Mitt Romney is the best-qualified man to be president of the United States and the only man who can send Barack Obama back to Illinois."
Neither Christie nor Romney mentioned Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, who has surged ahead of Romney in recent polls.
The private fund-raiser at the Hilton hotel also was to showcase Christie's power to unify the state party and garner important endorsements from county party chairmen across the state. All 21 GOP county chairs were on stage with Romney and Christie. Most of the Republican delegation in the Legislature also was there.
General admission tickets went for $500. Those donating $2,500 or bundling such donations were treated to VIP receptions.
Romney, who spoke for 13 minutes, talked about growing up in Michigan, how his parents taught their children to love America on a trip through the country's national parks, and the meaning of patriotism. He said the United States must continue to chart its own course, not follow Europe's examples.
"These are principles that are enduring. They are God-given," he said. "These are principles I would restore to Washington so we might have freedom, we might be strong, so we might care for those in need, and that we might remain the shining city on the hill."
Christie, who briefly considered running for the White House, said before the event that he was unconcerned about recent polls showing Gingrich's pulling ahead.
"If I were concerned about Newt Gingrich, I'd have had to be concerned about Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry, all of whom held similar leads to the leads Speaker Gingrich holds now over Gov. Romney in various states," Christie said.
Christie defended Romney's offer to make a $10,000 bet with Perry, the Texas governor, over Perry's claim that Romney made changes to parts of his book No Apology.
Some analysts said the number picked by Romney, a wealthy former business executive, gave the impression he was out of touch with ordinary people.
"I know what Gov. Romney was trying to do there," Christie said. "He picked a very large number because he wanted to display to the public just how sure he was that Rick Perry was lying about what was in his book."