Mr. Christie had attacked Mr. Rubio contemptuously in New Hampshire, calling him shallow and scripted, and humiliating him in a debate. Nevertheless, Mr. Rubio made a tentative overture to Mr. Christie after his withdrawal from the presidential race. He left the governor a voice mail message, seeking Mr. Christie’s support and assuring him that he had a bright future in public service, according to people who have heard Mr. Christie’s characterization of the message.
Mr. Christie, 53, took the message as deeply disrespectful and patronizing, questioning why “a 44-year-old” was telling him about his future [bold mine-DL], said people who described his reaction on the condition of anonymity. Further efforts to connect the two never yielded a direct conversation.
Many Rubio boosters have argued over the last few months that Rubio is obviously the best choice for party leaders and donors to rally behind and therefore his “establishment” rivals should drop out to help him out. Lost in this speculation is the fact that the governors who were expected to fall on their swords for Rubio’s benefit have developed a strong dislike for the senator. Bush resents him for obvious reasons, and Kasich can’t help but be insulted by the presumptuous demand that he drop out so that Rubio will have an easier time. Rubio’s clumsy attempt to mend fence with Christie illustrates the point: even when Rubio was trying to reconcile with the guy who had just savaged him, he did it in such a pretentious and condescending way that it had the opposite effect and instead reminded Christie of why he dislikes him. In Christie’s case, Rubio’s allies had already torched Christie with negative ads in New Hampshire, so Christie was perfectly happy to tear Rubio down in the days leading up to the primary. The voicemail asking for his endorsement just added insult to injury. It doesn’t help that Rubio seems to think that he is entitled to their support when at least some of them don’t think he’s qualified to be president.
I suspect Christie’s decision to endorse Trump was motivated by equal parts opportunism and spite: he wanted to get on the Trump bandwagon before he had sewn everything up, and he wanted to deal another blow to Rubio’s slim chances. That said, I bet it was also informed by Christie’s view that Rubio isn’t prepared to be president. Christie certainly mocked Trump on his temperament and experience as well, but since the choice had effectively come down to him or one of the two senators for whom Christie has little or no respect there was not much chance that Christie would choose one of the latter. Christie repeatedly criticized the senator candidates for having done nothing over the last several months, and in Cruz and Rubio he had two outstanding examples of legislators that haven’t achieved anything in their very brief Senate careers. Republican voters in most places have also been underwhelmed by both of the senators, which is why both trail Trump by wide margins in virtually every state that votes tomorrow and later this month.