New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) endorsed Mitt Romney on Tuesday in a barn-burning speech in New Hampshire. Christie mostly stuck to praising Romney’s record and character, as one does in these sorts of announcements. But during questioning Christie was straightforward about Romney’s appeal: “I believe he is the best person to articulate Republican values and defeat Barack Obama in 2012.” GOP voters should see this as more of the Christie truth-telling that the right touts so often: Romney is probably the only viable candidate Republicans have, which is pretty obvious to anyone who ever interacts with Blue America. Cain-mentum? Is that any more than a vote for President Obama?

Romney, Christie said, operates in the space between getting everything he wants and betraying conservative principles. Which is another way of telling the Tea Party to get real.

But it’s not just what Christie’s endorsement says about his views on conservative politics or what it might do for Romney’s campaign, on which Jennifer Rubin has a thorough analysis , that makes this news crack for political junkies.

The strong anti-Obama rhetoric in Christie’s announcement — even the simple fact that the governor is endorsing this early — will also incite speculation that he is joining the race to become Romney’s running mate. That’s bad for Tim Pawlenty, who quickly endorsed Romney shortly after ending his presidential campaign over the summer, and who arguably just dropped farther down the list of possible vice presidential picks. Pawlenty was already in competition with the other Republican governor elected in 2009, Bob McDonnell. Now he has to contend with the dreams of hardcore Christie-ans hoping that the New Jersey governor doesn’t really mean it when he claims he wants to stay in Trenton.

One could argue — and Christie might — that he wouldn’t be the best vice presidential candidate, given his history of controversial statements, his temperament unsuited to staying on script. Then again, doesn’t that sound like someone you’ve heard of...?

Happy speculating.