FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSNewYork/AP) —  In the latest twist in the wild primary ride, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has endorsed Donald Trump in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, Christie was a former rival of Trump’s in the Republican presidential primary before he dropped out earlier this month. But now, he is singing Trump’s praises.

Christie said at a news conference in Fort Worth, Texas, that Trump “will do what needs to be done to protect the American people.”

“I’ve gotten to know all of the people on that stage and 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.

Christie said Trump is “rewriting the playbook of American politics.”

“I’ve been saying this right from the time I entered the campaign, that the single most important thing for the Republican party is to nominate the person who gives us the best chance to beat Hillary Clinton,” Christie said. “I can guarantee you that the one person who Bill and Hillary Clinton do not want to see on that stage come next September is Donald Trump.”

Trump said Christie’s endorsement “really meant a lot.”

“Chris is an outstanding man with an outstanding family, he’s done a great job and I think that this is the one endorsement that I felt very strongly about,” he said.

Bridget Harrison teaches political science at Montclair State. She suggested that flattery will get you everywhere.

“He also sets himself up for the future, potentially, for an attorney general nomination,” Harrison told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.

The relationship between Trump and Christie has not always been a love fest. During the campaign, Trump had hit Christie over meeting President Barack Obama during Superstorm Sandy.

“He was like a little boy, buzzing around, flying in his plane,” Trump said earlier in the campaign.

Meanwhile, Christie took his shots at Trump’s style.

“Showmanship is fun, but it’s not the kind of leadership that’ll truly change America,” Christie said in January.

But now with Super Tuesday looming, Trump collected a major endorsement and changed the subject from Thursday night’s rock ‘em sock ‘em primary debate slugfest in Houston. But one of Trump’s opponents, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) fired off even harsher attacks on Friday.

“He is a con artist,” Rubio said of Trump.

Rubio then described Trump backstage at the debate.

“He was having a meltdown. First he had this little make-up thing, applying like make-up around his mustache, because he had one of those sweat mustaches,” Rubio said. “Then, then he asked for a full-length mirror. I don’t know why, because the podium goes up to here. But he wanted a full-length mirror — maybe to make sure his pants weren’t wet. I don’t know.”

Trump countered by going back in time, bashing Rubio’s 2013 water-sipping state of the union response.

“Do you remember that catastrophe, and he’s like this, ‘And we will (gasp, gasp), I need water! Help me! I need water! Help!’” Trump said.

Later, Trump poured it on – holding up a bottle of water as he said, “It’s Rubio!” and then spilling the water on the floor.

And meanwhile, some Republicans were wondering what the heck just happened with the primary.

“My party has gone bats**t crazy,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Christie dropped out of the Republican presidential race following the New Hampshire primary earlier this month after failing to break out from a field in which non-traditional candidates are making strides.

Christie had banked his campaign on a strong finish in New Hampshire, but placed sixth despite having spent more than 70 days campaigning in the state.

When asked what cabinet post he would want, Christie said he intends to finish his term.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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