Chris Christie’s make-or-break moment

Updated

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is trying to turn a coveted endorsement from the New Hampshire Union-Leader into real campaign momentum.

The backing from the conservative-leaning newspaper could be a lifeline for the governor’s sputtering presidential bid. It’s put him back under the spotlight and capped a solid month that included his remarks on drug addiction at a recent Granite State town hall going viral and his strong reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks, which Christie seized on to tout his national security background as U.S. attorney in the aftermath of 9/11.

The timing of the influential endorsement could not be more crucial, with Christie being knocked off the main debate stage last month – and the New Hampshire primary just 10 weeks away.

“I hope by Feb. 9 it translates into higher numbers at the polls,” Christie told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. “… The reason why this is happening is for one simple reason. I’ve been talking about the same things for the last six months, and I’ve always thought the most important thing is national security and the security of the homeland. And people are now coming around to that. After Paris, they understand acutely.”

RELATED: New Hampshire Union Leader on Christie endorsement

Whether the latest endorsement – and renewed media attention—translates into a bump in the polls remains to be seen. Only three of the last six GOPers backed by the Union Leader won the state’s primary.

But those candidates saw, on average, an 11-point boost – and that could be crucial. According to Real Clear Politics’ average of polling data surrounding the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, Christie is in seventh place with 5.3% support. Ahead of him are Donald Trump with 26%, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida with 12.5%, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 10.5%, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 9.5%, Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 7.8%, and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida with 7.5%.

“It gives donors a reason to believe that he can parlay a one-state strategy into a serious run for the nomination after a lot of people have left him for dead,” said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. “… Now he’s got to find a way to break out of that Kasich-Jeb Bush tier and into a place where he is seen as authentically surging.”

Part of that strategy seems to be going after his GOP rivals, where in the past Christie has focused his attacks on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

On Tuesday’s “Morning Joe” Christie argued that Rubio and Cruz were too inexperienced on issues of national security to be in the Oval Office. He also took aim at Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky for voting to curb national security surveillance programs, going as far to say the two have made America less safe.

RELATED: GOP primary heats up as 2016 nears

“He went for the easy political vote at a time when it looked like it kind of was a popular thing to do. With all those dead Parisians, it doesn’t look so popular anymore,” Christie said about Cruz.

The governor has also been more strident in refuting Trump’s claim that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, saying in New Hampshire on Monday that “it didn’t happen” and the “facts are the facts.” Christie also criticized Trump for mocking a journalist’s disabilities, telling CNN “You shouldn’t be making fun of people with disabilities. It’s just not worthy of someone running for president of the United States.”

Christie is in New Hampshire on Tuesday, making his 50th day in the state since announcing his 2016 bid.

Chris Christie

Chris Christie’s make-or-break moment

Updated