5:29 pm Oct. 11, 2011
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey announced today that he would back Mitt Romney for president, further solidifying Romney's front-runner status in the media, and, apparently, among his newly committed fund-raisers.
"I think it pushes Governor Romney a long way towards getting the nomination," said supermarket magnate and major Republican donor John Catsimatidis, in a brief telephone interview this afternoon.
Catsimatidis said the endorsement could help convince donors who remain uncommitted, a process that he saw getting some traction even before today's announcement.
"My argument has always been we need somebody that can achieve the 51 percent we need to win," he said. "Everybody that I've been talking to in the last few days, ever since I opened up my mouth last week, is saying, 'Yeah, John, you're right. Governor Romney is more likely to achieve the 51 percent than Governor Perry.'"
Among the people Catsimatidis has spoken to since he pledged his support: Mitt Romney.
"Mitt Romney called me himself to thank me for my involvement," he said. "And I told him I'm here to help if he needs me."
Catsimatidis said they talked for about 15 minutes and that it was a "good" conversation.
According to Catsimatidis, the Romney campaign subsequently proposed having him host a fund-raiser (they asked for his birthday and Social Security number, presumably for vetting purposes), and he said he's still considering it. He said Romney's next swing through the city will be in early November.
Catsimatidis said the recent flap about Romney's religion—sparked when a Texas pastor who supports Rick Perry called Mormonism a cult—was an unfortunate distraction.
"I think that's terrible," he said. "The standard comment should be we all report to the same god. I think it's silly to bring something like that up."
More important, he said, would be tonight's debate in New Hampshire.
"I think everybody is going to be watching the debate now to see if everything is going to fall into place," he said.
"If Romney just excels, I think that's what they're watching for. The excel factor."
I asked him if there was anything that could effectively lock up the nomination for Romney.
"The knockout punch?" he said. "Maybe Jeb Bush's endorsement in Florida."