Romney: Christie 'Could Easily Become Our Nominee and Save Our Party’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | November 3, 2013 | 7:16pm EST

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

( - Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who lost the 2012 election to President Barack Obama, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he believed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could “easily” become the GOP presidential nominee in 2016 and “save our party.”

Christie most recently made national news when he decided to drop a legal challenge to rulings in New Jersey state courts that declared same-sex marriage legal there. And not long before that, he changed his position on the question of whether illegal aliens should get in-state tuition rates at New Jersey state colleges. Now he backs legislation that would give that privilege to illegal aliens.

These two moves won Christie a recent article from the Los Angeles Times that described him as having "staked his place near the political middle ground."

Romney’s statement that Christie could “save our party” came even as Time Magazine’s website published an excerpt from the upcoming book “Double Down: Game Change 2012” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, that was featured above the masthead on the Drudge Report, and that describes a Republican vice presidential vetting process that resulted in Romney himself deciding not choosing Christie as his vice presidential running mate.

“Meet the Press” host David Gregory on Sunday asked Romney about the revelations in this book.

“Well, I know that the vetting people who went through that analysis and put together their report laid everything out,” Romney told Gregory, according to NBC’s transcript of the program. “But, frankly, there was nothing they found that wasn't already part of the public record and that hadn't already been dealt with effectively by Chris Christie. So there was nothing new there.”

A moment later, Romney  said: “Chris, by the way, could easily become our nominee and save our party and help get this nation on the right track again. They don't come better than Chris Christie.”

“Look, I know that the Democrats will try and go after him, if he's our nominee, in every way they can,” said Romney. “But you can't argue with the kind of success he's had. He's been a governor, he's about to win I think on Tuesday pretty solidly, and his record as governor really stands out. I mean, New Jersey, after all, is a very blue state. He's a very popular governor in a very blue state; that's the kind of popularity and the kind of track record the Republican Party needs if we're going to take back the White House.”

Gregory asked Romney if he thought Christie was the “odds-on-favorite” to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2016.

“Well, I think it's kind of early to say who's the most electable and who would be the most effective candidate,” said Romney. “But at this stage, you look at Chris Christie and say, That's a very impressive guy, with a great track record, with a demonstrated ability to work across the aisle, with support of labor and blue-collar voters in New Jersey. It's a pretty compelling story. And there are some other very compelling stories: Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio.

“I mean, there's a long list of very capable people,” said Romney. “But Chris Christie stands out as one of the very strongest lights in the Republican Party.”

When pushed, Romney said he was “not going to disqualify” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, whom he had omitted from his list of possible Republican candidates with “very compelling stories.”

“Does Ted Cruz stand out to you as a potential light of the Republican Party?” asked Gregory.

“I'm not going to disqualify anybody,” said Romney. :But I think I've indicated some of the names that I think are most effective in becoming elected, and we'll see where it goes.”

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