New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE for president on Friday in a surprise announcement, telling voters that no one is better prepared to lead the country. 

The stunning news represents the biggest endorsement by far for Trump, the GOP front-runner who has shaken the party establishment to its core with his rise. 

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“I’ve been on that stage, I’ve gotten to know all the people on that stage. And there is no one better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs both at home and around the world than Donald Trump,” Christie said at a joint press appearance in Texas alongside Trump. 

Christie's decision comes amid a flurry of endorsements from lawmakers and other public officials for Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' Dems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism MORE, who repeatedly ripped into Trump in Thursday night's debate. 

Christie tangled memorably with Rubio during his own failed presidential campaign, and the New Jersey governor's distaste of the Florida senator was clear in his remarks. 

He called Trump "the clear standout" on stage Thursday night and "the person who will do exactly what needs to be done to make America a leader around the world again.” 

Christie lauded Trump as the best candidate to take on Democratic primary front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBudowsky: Closing message for Democrats Election Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach GOP mocks Clinton after minor vehicle collision outside Mendendez campaign event MORE for the White House in the fall.

"I can guarantee you that the one person that Hillary and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonCybersecurity for national defense: How many 'wake-up calls' does it take? Who's in control alters our opinion of how things are Obama adviser jabs Hillary Clinton over Monica Lewinsky comments MORE don’t want to see on that stage come September is Donald Trump," he said. 

"They know how to run the standard political playbook against junior senators and run them around the block. They do not know the playbook with Donald Trump because he is rewriting the playbook.” 

The endorsement a reversal for Christie, who while running for the White House questioned Trump's fitness to serve.
 
"Donald is a great guy and a good person, but I don't think he is suited to be president of the United States. I don't think his temperament is suited for that and I don't think his experience is," Christie said in August on Fox News. 
 
 
He also lamented the party's "carnival barkers" during a January speech in New Hampshire while not explicitly mentioning Trump by name.
 
"Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America," he said according to Newsmax. 

Christie and Trump responded to an onslaught of attacks from Rubio, who earlier Friday bashed Trump as a "con man" and joked that he wet himself on the debate stage. 

“The fact is that desperate people do desperate things, and I’ve seen it throughout politics and so can you," Trump said. 

"The idea that Marco Rubio can get inside Donald Trump’s head is an interesting position, but one that is really for the D.C. parlor game.”

And in response to Rubio's barbs that Trump was putting on makeup backstage during the debate, Trump turned the tables on him and said the Florida senator was putting on makeup "with a towel."

While Rubio came into Friday riding high after a lauded debate performance, Christie's endorsement steals the narrative away. 

Trump has repeatedly been able to blunt rivals' momentum with his own major announcement. At previous points when rivals threatened to eclipse him on the front page, Trump has leveled allegations against Ben Carson, threatened to sue Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown O'Rourke's mom discusses past Dem votes after labeled 'lifelong Republican' by son Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown MORE and proposed to ban Muslims from entering the country. 

Christie dropped his own presidential run after a poor showing in New Hampshire. His endorsement of Trump, a figure loathed by many Republicans, is likely to remind some of his appearance on the post-Superstorm Sandy New Jersey boardwalk with President Obama just days before the 2012 election.

It also raises questions about whether there could be a spot for Christie in a Trump administration.
 
Trump repeatedly lauded Christie as a strong leader and didn't close the door when asked if Christie could be his running mate.
 
"I don't want to discuss that but he certainly has the talent," Trump said of the possibility. 
 
"We did not even talk about it, but he certainly has the talent."
 
Christie said that he intends to fulfill his term as governor through 2018 before going back to private life.
 
Updated at 1:44 p.m.