A day after his pounding by rival Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in a Republican presidential debate, Donald Trump picked up the endorsement Friday of former opponent Chris Christie, who instantly joined him in fiercely attacking the Florida senator as unfit for the presidency.
“I can guarantee you that the one person that Hillary and Bill Clinton do not want to see on that stage come next September is Donald Trump,” the New Jersey governor said at an appearance with the New York billionaire in Fort Worth, Texas.
“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 surprise endorsement gave Trump extra firepower as he fought Friday to mount a ferocious counterattack against Rubio.
With his candidacy in potential jeopardy Tuesday in a dozen contests that Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are better positioned to dominate, Rubio attacked Trump’s business record hard during Thursday night’s debate in Houston. The assault intensified Friday when he called Trump a “con artist” and mocked his backstage preparations.
Trump, in turn, let loose on Rubio, calling him a desperate liar who lacks the demeanor to be president.
“He is a nervous Nellie,” Trump told reporters, saying Rubio applies television makeup with a trowel. “I watch him backstage. He’s a mess.”
Trump ridiculed Rubio for his profuse sweating.
“Can you imagine Putin sitting there waiting for a meeting, and Rubio walks in, and he’s totally drenched,” Trump asked. “I don’t know what it is, but I’ve never seen a human being sweat like this man sweats.”
He paid tribute to Christie for his withering attack on Rubio in a debate before the Florida senator’s fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, saying Rubio had an “epic meltdown” that left him looking like he’d just emerged from a swimming pool. “Good going, Chris,” Trump said.
Echoing one of Christie’s main lines of attack against Rubio, Trump said the freshman senator had “defrauded Florida” by missing so much Senate business. “Before he sits down, he starts running for president,” Trump said.
Christie joined in the attack, describing Rubio’s jabs at Trump as “flailing punches in the last days of a losing campaign.”
“I find it fascinating that someone who barely shows up for work in his six years he’s a United States senator is going to talk about somebody else being unprepared,” Christie said.
Nonetheless, Rubio and Cruz succeeded in putting Trump on the defensive concerning his refusal to release his tax returns.
“Until my audit is finished, you’re not going to see anything,” Trump said, despite telling reporters months ago that he would release his tax returns. “When it’s finished, you’re going to see it.”
The real estate magnate also defended himself against Rubio’s criticism concerning a fraud lawsuit involving Trump University, a case he described as “just people trying to get their money back.”
“It’s a peanut case,” he said. “It’s a very small case. I will end up winning.”