Lebanon, New Hampshire (CNN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Mitt Romney Tuesday, emphasizing the former Massachusetts governor's electability in a race against President Barack Obama.
"I want to support Gov. Romney because I believe he's the best person to be able to articulate Republican values and defeat Barack Obama in November 2012," Christie said at a press conference.
The endorsement was another sign Romney, the GOP front-runner, is consolidating support among establishment Republicans who believe he is the party's best chance to win back the White House.
Christie ended months of speculation over his presidential intentions last week when he announced he would not run in 2012. The tough-talking governor is a rising star in the Republican Party who had been insistently courted by some influential party insiders who hoped he would enter the presidential race.
After Christie announced he would not run, he and Romney have had a series of conversations over the past week that lead to the announcement, a campaign source told CNN.
During the press conference announcement, Romney was asked for the first time to respond to remarks by Pastor Robert Jeffress, an influential Baptist leader who recently called Mormonism a "cult" and said Mormons were "not Christians." Jeffress made the remarks Friday after endorsing Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.
Since the comments, Romney, a Mormon, has worked to keep his message on jobs and the economy. But on Tuesday he called for Perry to repudiate Pastor Jeffress.
"I just don't believe that that kind of divisiveness based on religion has a place in this country," Romney said.
While Perry has largely avoided questions on the subject, he told reporters in Iowa on Friday he does not consider Mormonism a cult.
Christie went further in faulting the Perry campaign for not renouncing Jeffress more strongly.
"Any campaign that associates itself with that type of comment is beneath the office of President of the United States," he said.
As he spoke to a room full of media in town for the GOP New Hampshire debate Tuesday night, Christie also vouched for Romney's conservative bona fides and particularly the health care plan Romney's opponents have tied to Obama's health care plan. Christie said that attack was "intellectually dishonest."
"Do not try to equate what's happened with Obamacare with what Gov. Romney did in Massachusetts," Christie said, explaining each state should be able to implement its own health care plan.
"We should not allow people for political purposes to try to be disingenuous about what Gov. Romney did and compare that to what happened, and what is happening, with federal health care legislation supported by the president. Simply intellectually dishonest."