Mitt Romney wins Chris Christie's endorsement
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has endorsed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination.
Mr Christie announced his support at an event in New Hampshire, where Mr Romney is preparing for a debate with rivals.
His seal of approval was in high demand after he announced last week that he would not be running for president.
Mr Romney is 18 points ahead with Republican voters in New Hampshire, according to a poll released on Monday.
The New Jersey governor was flanked by Mr Romney as he praised his experience as a businessman and elected leader.Perry challenged
"I believe he's the best person to articulate Republican values and defeat Barack Obama," Mr Christie said.
Correspondents say the financial backers who had been poised to help fund a Christie White House campaign will now funnel their money to Mr Romney.
One of Mr Christie's top donors, Home Depot financier Ken Langone, has already announced he would back Mr Romney, reports the Associated Press news agency.
Mr Romney also took the opportunity to call on Texas Governor Rick Perry to "repudiate" the comments of a Texan evangelical pastor, Robert Jeffress, who introduced Mr Perry at a social conservatives' conference in Washington DC.
Mr Jeffress described Mormonism, Mr Romney's religion, as a "cult".
The former governor's newest supporter criticised the Perry campaign over the comment.
"These type of religious matters have nothing to do with the quality of somebody's ability to lead," Mr Christie said in response to a reporter's question.
"Any campaign that associates itself with that type of conduct is beneath the office of president of the United States."
A Perry campaign spokesman later told the Associated Press that the Texas governor would not disavow Mr Jeffress, although he "disagreed" with the pastor's view.
Elected governor in 2009, Mr Christie has a reputation as a tough-talking, fiscally conservative governor.
While he and Mr Romney are viewed as different in temperament, they share at least one political connection.
Russ Schriefer, one of Mr Romney's media consultants, helped to run Mr Christie's campaign for governor in 2009, the New York Times reports.
Mr Romney will join Mr Perry, seen as his main rival for the nomination, at a televised debate in New Hampshire at 20:00 EDT (midnight GMT).
The event, sponsored by Bloomberg News and the Washington Post, will focus on the economy.
It is seen as a crucial test for Mr Perry, who has been criticised by conservative Republicans for his policies as Texas governor.
They attacked him for his 2007 order mandating vaccinations for schoolgirls against a sexually transmitted infection that causes cervical cancer.
He has also come under fire for backing in-state tuition for the children of immigrants who entered Texas illegally.
A poll released on Monday gave Mr Romney 38% of support among Republicans in New Hampshire, one of the first states to vote for the party's White House nominee.
Businessman Herman Cain was second on 20%, while Mr Perry trailed in sixth place with only 4%, according to the survey by Harvard and St Anselm's College.