Chris Christie’s struggling presidential campaign got a much-needed boost Saturday night when the influential New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed the New Jersey governor.
“Gov. Christie is right for these dangerous times,” the paper’s publisher Joseph McQuaid wrote in an editorial. “He has prosecuted terrorists and dealt admirably with major disasters. But the one reason he may be best-suited to lead during these times is because he tells it like it is and isn’t shy about it.”
“Other candidates have gained public and media attention by speaking bluntly. But it’s important when you are telling it like it is to actually know what you are talking about,” the editorial added, a reference to the governor’s trademark brashness that helped launch him to national fame.
The endorsement comes at a crucial moment for the Christie campaign. The New Jersey governor, who previously pursued terror cases as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, is getting renewed attention in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, which have moved national security issues into the 2016 spotlight.
The endorsement also fired a not-so-subtle shot at Christie’s competitors in the Senate, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“We don’t need another fast-talking, well-meaning freshman U.S. senator trying to run the government,” the editorial states. “We are still seeing the disastrous effects of the last such choice.”
Since launching his campaign in June, Christie has struggled to gain traction in the crowded Republican field, failing to gain support above low single digits in national or in key early primary state polls.
The backing of the newspaper in New Hampshire’s biggest city is significant because the Granite State has been a central pillar to Christie’s strategy, and he has spent more time in the state than any other 2016er, hosting more than 30 town halls.
Sources close to the campaign tell CNN they hope the endorsement will encourage voters to take a second look at Christie. Christie has said his strategy in New Hampshire is “one voter at a time.”
Christie will return to New Hampshire on Monday, when he’s expected to pick up the endorsement of real estate developer Renee Plummer, a key political figure in the state, as well as hosting a town hall and meeting with a law enforcement group.
Despite his meteoric rise to conservative stardom a few years ago, Christie has struggled to recover since becoming embroiled in the “Bridgegate” scandal in 2013, regarding Christie aides connection to closing traffic lanes in Fort Lee as an act of political retribution. No evidence has ever proven Christie knew of his staff ordering the lane closings.
The governor of the very blue state has also struggled to get the attention of the far right, another reason why the newspaper, which is seen as a conservative voice, is so valuable to the campaign.
Instead, the Republican primary electorate has thus far shown a strong preference for outsiders of the Washington political system, favoring front-runner Donald Trump or retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, neither of whom have ever held elected office.
In an apparent dig at Trump, Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina who is also seeking the presidential nomination, the paper said Christie “won’t get rolled by the bureaucrats.”
“We don’t need as President some well-meaning person from the private sector who has no public experience,” McQuaid wrote.
Christie, who was first elected in 2009, has been a regular figure in Washington as well as a consistent presence in political media, with New York City just a short drive away from Trenton.
The newspaper endorsed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2012 for the Republican presidential primary and endorsed eventual nominee John McCain in 2008. The newspaper backed Steve Forbes in 2000.