Did Christie just spark 'draft Romney' move?
© Getty

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's endorsement of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE, which can only be described as stunning and shocking to the political world, will cause panic and chaos throughout the GOP establishment.

Here are some of the immediate results of the Christie move.

First, Christie's endorsement of Trump for president is devastating to the GOP establishment which was in virtual panic about the rise of Trump before Christie endorsed him and is now in a state of total panic behind the scenes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Second, Christie's endorsement of Trump is a devastating blow to the conservative establishment, which views Trump as neither a legitimate Republican or a legitimate conservative (as I wrote in my most recent column for The Hill). The Christie move creates intense pressure on Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMcSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' MORE (Texas), the conservative movement favorite whose candidacy would be devastated if Trump defeats him in his home state of Texas — which is more likely today than yesterday. The Cruz candidacy was already showing signs of fading before Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics MORE's (Fla.) strong performance in the last debate and Christie's endorsement of Trump.

Third, Christie's endorsement of Trump will put intense pressure on Rubio, who performed brilliantly in the last debate and appeared poised to make a serious run against Trump. Rubio has escalated his attack against Trump today, while Christie coupled his support for Trump with an attack-dog barrage against Rubio, whom Christie obviously holds in contempt.

Fourth, Christie's endorsement of Trump is like a gift from God to Democratic presidential candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Third vaccine candidate with 90% efficacy Biden won — so why did Trump's popularity hit its highest point ever? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' in new administration In the final chapter of 2020, we must recommit to repairing our democracy MORE (Vt.), and the Democratic Party. Most polls have shown both Clinton and Sanders defeating Trump — in some polls by landslide margins — so while the Republican establishment is now in fear of the peril of a Trump nomination, the Democratic establishment and the Democratic base are thrilled beyond description that a Trump nomination could lead to a Democratic landslide for the presidency and races for Congress.

Fifth, Christie's endorsement of Trump creates a put-up-or-shut-up moment for Republican Party leaders, movers and shakers, and major donors who must either unify in force behind Rubio almost immediately or find a late-entering candidate for a last-ditch stand.

My guess is that there are two possible outcomes to the fear and loathing of Trump that now grips members of the GOP establishment, who will now watch the March 1 balloting with intense fear.

If Rubio does better on March 1, there will be a powerful surge of establishment unity behind his candidacy and huge pressure on Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) to withdraw and support Rubio. If Rubio does poorly on March 1, there will be chaos, panic and bedlam throughout the GOP establishment, which could well turn to 2012 nominee Mitt Romney with a huge and sudden draft movement in a last-ditch attempt to save the party from Trump.

In recent days, Romney has emerged with his call for Trump to release his tax returns and his prediction that the returns could include blockbuster bad news for Trump. Romney clearly possesses presidential stature, the capacity to self-finance a national campaign almost immediately and the capacity to raise enormous campaign money from large donors within days.

Fasten your seat belts and stay tuned. The next week will be one of the most dramatic weeks in the modern history of presidential politics. Either Rubio will have a very big day next Tuesday or party leaders could well turn to Romney. In the meantime, Chris Christie's endorsement of Trump creates indescribable fear and loathing throughout the GOP establishment while virtually all Democrats — myself included — have big smiles on our faces right now, courtesy of the governor of New Jersey.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.