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Baker won’t join Christie in Trump endorsement

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Governor Charlie Baker smiled as he approached the microphone at a State House news conference Friday, the crush of reporters and television cameras noticeably larger than usual.

"What could possibly be going on?" he asked, knowing precisely what was going on.

The wild Republican presidential primary, an enormous irritant for a GOP governor trying to make his way in a heavily Democratic state, had struck again.

This time it was former presidential aspirant Chris Christie, endorsed by Baker a scant three weeks ago, throwing his support behind brash Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Does this change your opinion of Christie, the media horde wanted to know. Was it, by the transitive power of politics, a Baker endorsement of The Donald?

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No. No it wasn't.

"Chris Christie is very much his own man," said Baker, his hands in his pockets and his right leg jiggling a bit.

Are you disappointed?

"I'm not disappointed," he said. "But I'm surprised."

Baker spokesman Tim Buckley, looking a bit besieged himself after the news conference, said the governor had no advance notice of Christie's Friday afternoon endorsement of Trump, which was broadcast live on cable television from Fort Worth, Texas.

Buckley notified Baker himself, reaching the governor in the car as he was making his way back to the State House from a meeting.

Were there any expletives uttered?

The governor was surprised, Buckley said.

Christie, the voluble governor of New Jersey, steered some $11 million to Baker's gubernatorial campaign in 2014 from his perch atop the Republican Governors Association. But Baker has repeatedly said the campaign dollars did not figure in his endorsement of Christie for president.

After the Iowa caucuses, which saw conservative firebrand Ted Cruz and Trump finishing first and second, Baker said he felt the need to endorse a candidate who is "able to get along and work with people on both sides of the aisle."

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Even Christie did not exactly fit the Baker brand.

Most would not describe the blunt-spoken Christie, fond of chewing out critics at town hall-style meetings, as someone who is "able to get along."

No matter. When Christie dropped out of the race after a disappointing sixth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, the questions died down, with Baker offering the occasional, mild-mannered soliloquy on why Trump would not make the best of presidents.

On Friday, the questions were back. And next week, when Massachusetts holds presidential primaries of its own, there figure to be a few more.

Leading in the Bay State polls? Why Donald Trump, of course.


David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe.