New Jersey Governor Chris Christie just announced Friday February 26th that he will endorse Donald Trump for president marking the first endorsement which the front-runner for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination has received from one of his former opponents. “I’ve been on that [debate] stage and there is no one who is better prepared to provide America with the leadership she needs than Donald Trump,” Christie said. “He is the person who will do exactly what needs to be done to make America a leader around the world again.” Christie also made the statement that Trump is the best candidate to go against Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton in the general election. Christie’s support is also fueling rumors that he could be a potential vice president pick.
The two-term New Jersey Governor’s endorsement of the billionaire couldn’t have arrived at a more perfect time, coming on the heels of Thursday February 25th’s CNN Republican Debate, where the two candidates in a dead heat for the anti-Trump vote, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz suspended their war of words on each other to redirect their verbal fire on Trump.
Rubio, who is currently in third place in most national polls, had previously been reticent to directly attack Trump during either the debates or in the media. However, last night the Florida Senator who is known for his oratory skills, unleashed a battery of attacks on Trump on a variety of fronts including healthcare, foreign policy, and immigration. Rubio had a particularly memorable moment when he called Trump out for his hiring practice. “You’re the only person on this stage that’s ever been fined for hiring people to work on your project illegally”, Rubio chastised the real estate magnate. Rubio was referring to Trump’s having hired a team of illegal immigrants from Poland on the Trump Tower construction project, which Trump quickly dismissed as a situation which took place over thirty years ago. “I guess there’s a statute of limitations on lies,” Rubio responded. “I hired tens of thousands of people. You’ve hired nobody,” Trump retorted.
Cruz, who is currently coming in second in most national polls, has been on the war path with Trump for weeks now. The CNN Debate was no exception. The Texas Senator threw out a bunch of powerful barbs against The Donald including accusing the author of “The Art of the Deal” of committing fraud through Trump University, a now defunct real estate workshop which stopped operations in 2011.“It’s [Trump University] a fraud case. His lawyers have scheduled the trial for July. I want you to think about, if this man is the nominee, having the Republican nominee on the stand in court, being cross-examined about whether he committed fraud. You don’t think the mainstream media will go crazy on that?” Cruz quipped. According to Business Insider, in 2013 New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump University for “allegedly defrauding students out of $40 million” by failing to deliver on the promises in the University’s marketing materials.
Trump, spent most of the evening delivering counterpunches including labeling Rubio “a choke artist” and Cruz “a liar”. He also had to fend off some tough questions from moderator and Telemundo presenter Maria Celeste regarding his plans for winning over the Latino vote in the general election. While Trump was his usual confident self, the debate, in many ways, appeared to be a real Trump pile-on, a virtual boiling point for the anti-Trump sentiment which has been building up over the last few weeks. Within this week alone, 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney, who is judicious about his media appearances, went on the talk show circuit with the proclamation that there is a “bombshell” in Trump’s not yet released tax returns. While Romney did comment that Cruz and Rubio also need to release their tax returns, he didn’t hint that either of them were hiding anything.
This past week a number of super PAC’s launched anti-Trump campaigns including Our Principles PAC which is spearheaded by Katie Packer, a former Mitt Romney advisor. On the night of the Nevada GOP Caucus, Our Principles sent a three page memo to conservative leaders and political operatives with suggested strategies for defeating Donald Trump. Another super PAC Conservative Solutions, which is backing Rubio, released several negative Trump ads including one which shows the video from Trump’s victory speech in Nevada where he says “I love the poorly educated.” The spot goes on to imply that Trump is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people. Conservative Solutions has also unveiled other ads which take pot shots at Trump’s foreign policy acumen.
Obviously, the Republican establishment is getting nervous. Their worst fears have the potential of being realized. Donald Trump, the side show candidate, is now leading in all of the national polls. He has also just picked up major victories in the primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina and the Nevada Caucus. The Nevada Caucus was a sweeping victory for Trump who carried 46% of the vote and walked away with every major demographic, including the evangelical Christians. Supposedly Cruz had the lock on evangelicals. In addition, winning the Hispanic vote when competing against two candidates of Hispanic heritage was a particularly sweet victory.
As we approach Super Tuesday on March 1 where twelve states and 595 delegates are in play, Trump is poised to win big as he is currently leading in every state except Texas where Cruz is leading. While Trump is actively stumping in Texas, there is a school of thought that says that even if he comes in second in the critical Texas race, Trump still benefits. The rationale is that the 155 delegates in Texas are proportionately allocated. If Trump wins Texas, it is possible that Cruz will drop out of the race. If Cruz drops out, his support will go to Rubio. Consequently, Trump will face a stronger challenge from Rubio than if Cruz were to remain in the race and continue to splinter the vote. If Cruz wins Texas, Trump still picks up delegates and maintains a national lead over both Cruz and Rubio. Trump will need this lead when he faces off against Rubio on March 15 in the winner take all Florida race.
One thing is certain, all eyes will be on Texas come Super Tuesday!