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

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's endorsement of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' 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 CruzHillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's impeachment jeopardy deepens 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 RubioTurkey says soldier killed despite cease-fire in Syria White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours Erdoğan got the best of Trump, experts warn 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 ClintonClinton trolls Trump with mock letter from JFK to Khrushchev Trump-Graham relationship tested by week of public sparring Sunday shows — Mulvaney seeks to tamp down firestorm over quid pro quo comments, Doral decision MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' Warren says she will unveil plan to finance 'Medicare for All' Ocasio-Cortez says endorsing Sanders early is 'the most authentic decision' she could make 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.