New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has endorsed Donald Trump's bid to be the Republican nominee for US president. Analysts have called his backing a game changer ahead of Super Tuesday primaries in a dozen states.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he wanted to endorse the person who had the best chance of beating Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election on November 8.
"There is no one who is better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs both at home and around the world than Donald Trump," Christie said on stage with Trump at a campaign rally in Fort Worth, Texas.
By backing Trump, Christie - considered a moderate Republican - became first major elected party figure to endorse the real estate magnate.
Analysts said the New Jersey governor's support for Trump, whose brash, provocative style of politics has turned the Republican race - and US politics - upside down, marked a potential turning point in the campaign.
Christie said the billionaire Trump would fight the Washington establishment and the failures of both the Republicans and Democrats.
"They do not know the playbook with Donald Trump, because he is rewriting the playbook," Christie said.
In return, Trump said Christie's backing was one endorsement that he wanted to get in the race for the White House.
Christie pulled out of the race two weeks ago, after a dismal showing in the nomination contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he finished 10th and sixth, respectively.
Trump, who has never held political office, has run a controversial campaign that has singled out immigrants from Mexico for censure and proposed an all-out ban on Muslims' entering the United States.
His contentious comments have won him the support of many conservative Americans but have also been widely lambasted.
As the leading Republican candidate, he has won three straight contests in New Hampshire, South Caroline and Nevada.
Earlier on Friday another rival, Senator Marco Rubio, launched a fresh verbal assault against Trump, calling the billionaire "a con artist" during a round of Friday morning television interviews.
The attacks followed similar outbursts during Thursday night's 10th Republican TV debate in Texas.
The Florida senator also questioned Trump's business background, attacked his preparedness to lead the nation and charged that Trump has been "sticking it to the little guy" for decades.
Rubio told CBS' "This Morning," "A con artist is about to take over the Republican Party and the conservative movement, and we have to put a stop to it."
Super Tuesday next
The five remaining candidates - Trump, Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Ben Carson - are due to face off during Super Tuesday primaries, on March 1, which will see 13 states pick their nominees for Republican candidate.
While Trump has emerged as the frontrunner to represent the Republican party, abroad his campaign is being watched with a fair amount of shock and skepticism.
mm/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)