Gov. Christie endorsed Donald Trump on Friday, breaking with establishment Republicans to embrace a former rival who outdid him as the bluntest talker in the presidential race.
"We wanted to be with the person that we thought could provide the strongest leadership for America and the person who could best make sure that Hillary Clinton never gets within 10 miles of the White House," Christie said, describing his family's decision as he joined Trump at a news conference in Fort Worth, Texas.
"Once we made that decision, it was clear the only choice was Donald Trump," he said. "The best choice was Donald Trump."
Christie, who dropped out of the race Feb. 10 after a disappointing sixth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, said he made the decision to endorse Trump after talking with his family about whether "we want to play any other role in this campaign, or do we want to just not."
Describing himself and his wife, Mary Pat, as friends for more than a decade with Trump and his wife, Melania, Christie said: "Our family prides loyalty."
The endorsement represented a reentry into the national conversation for Christie, who has kept a low profile since returning to New Jersey. The governor didn't give advance notice of his endorsement, and his office didn't acknowledge he was traveling out of state.
For Trump - who has led polls of GOP voters in New Jersey, as he has nationally - the endorsement offered a chance to pivot from a Thursday night debate performance in which the businessman was battered by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
"Endorsements are valuable when they're a surprise, and no one saw this one coming," national GOP strategist Bruce Haynes said. "Trump seems to understand momentum and the sequencing of a narrative very, very well."
Christie's move was yet another turn in a strange electoral cycle that already has seen large chunks of the presidential political playbook shredded.
The governor was once a favorite of GOP leaders and donors, who tried to push him into the 2012 presidential race. Christie declined, then endorsed another establishment candidate, eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
In endorsing the antiestablishment Trump, Christie will be asked to explain the inconsistency - which many will conclude has a lot to do with the governor's ambitions, Haynes said.
"This appears to be fairly transactional," he said.
Christie's endorsement drew immediate reaction. "He told me he would not back Trump," tweeted Joe McQuaid, the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper, which endorsed Christie. "I now suspect him in Lindbergh baby plot."
"One hopes that with this irresponsible, soulless act, Christie's career comes to an end," wrote Jennifer Rubin, a conservative Washington Post columnist who had been favorable toward him.
Asked Friday about a potential position in Trump's administration, Christie said, "I haven't been offered any position, and I don't speculate on those kind of things."
Christie said he had "every expectation" that he would complete his gubernatorial term, which ends in January 2018, "and then go into private life and make money like Trump."
Trump - who had ripped Christie over his record in New Jersey, saying "there's no way he didn't know" about the George Washington Bridge scandal - praised the governor Friday as an "outstanding person."
During his campaign, Christie often directed voters to question Trump's claims - including the assertion that Mexico would pay for a border wall.
On Friday, as Trump pledged to build the wall "ten feet higher," Christie chuckled.
Christie also had offered contrasts between his resume and the billionaire businessman's, telling an Iowa crowd in December: "We don't need reality TV in the Oval Office."
On Friday, Christie said: "We don't need any more of these Washington, D.C., acts." He continued to criticize Rubio - whom the governor lacerated during his last GOP debate - calling the first-term senator "wholly unprepared to be president of the United States."
Some political observers saw pitfalls in a potential Trump-Christie ticket. "Trump does not necessarily want to connect himself to some of the unsettled business from Bridgegate, and it would be a ticket with two very similar styles of politicians," said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.
Given New Jersey's proximity to Trump's home state of New York, "I'm not certain how much appeal that would have west of the Poconos and south of the Mason-Dixon Line," Karl Rove, a former George W. Bush adviser, said Friday on Fox News.
Christie's office didn't respond to a question on when the governor would return to New Jersey. He was due to appear with Trump at events through Saturday evening, according to a Trump spokeswoman.
A Christie adviser said the governor would travel "whenever he thinks he can be helpful," but not at the level of his own campaign.
The adviser, who spoke on background, said Christie endorsed Trump now because "he's the type of guy who wants to have influence."
Some drew parallels between Christie and Trump. "Pre-Trump, there was anticipation that Chris Christie would be the real candidate who was willing to talk directly to the people. Donald Trump seemed to capture that narrative to the extreme," said Dale Florio, a Republican lobbyist and friend of Christie's. "So in many ways, they're very similar. I think the governor appreciates that in Trump."
In addition to their longtime friendship, Christie and Trump are indirectly connected through one of New Jersey's most sordid political affairs.
When Christie was New Jersey's U.S. attorney, he prosecuted Charles Kushner, a prominent real estate developer and Democratic fund-raiser, for tax evasion, making illegal campaign donations, and witness tampering (which involved a prostitute and sex tape).
Kushner, who was sentenced to two years in jail in 2005, is the father of Jared Kushner, who married Trump's daughter Ivanka in 2009.
Now, Christie could help send Kushner's in-laws to the White House.