This afternoon New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will endorse Mitt Romney for president. It’s big news for Romney, and perhaps one of only a handful of endorsements that matter in the GOP primary.

Christie’s endorsement does a number of things for Romney. First, his nod signals to the fence sitters and wandering eyes looking for some greener pasture (a better candidate, that is) that now is the time to get serious. Second, it gives Romney an injection of boldness. Here is the best known and regarded entitlement reformer saying Romney, not regarded for his daring, is the guy who will get real reform through the Congress. Third, it is an embarrassing thumbs down to the former head of the RGA, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who lost the backing of the most politically influential of his peers. Christie in effect is saying Perry’s record in Texas isn’t a good enough reason to vote for him. Fourth, it gives Romney one of the most charismatic and effective surrogates in the conservative movement, someone who can sway donors, Tea Partyers, talk show hosts and mainstream voters alike. And finally, it is a blow to the outsider candidates like Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) In essence, the most successful governor at taking on unions and the Democrats is saying now is not the time for a novice.

It is of course questionable how much even an endorsement like Christie’s matters. Certainly, the long endorsement lists of state legislators that the camps send around are virtually meaningless. But let’s face it: Every GOP contender in the race would have wanted Christie’s support. Only a few big fish (Dick Cheney, Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush) remain uncommitted and it is far from certain any of these will want to weigh in during the primary. As in elections, it is always better to win than lose top notch endorsements.

Romney’s campaign prowess is showing once again. Not only did he hook the biggest fish, but he did so just hours from the debate, thereby overshadowing the event to a degree and ensuring that regardless of the outcome he’ll have some good headlines tomorrow. This is how one wins a presidential nomination.