Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, has won the prized endorsement of New Jersey Governor Christie, Romney's campaign said Wednesday.

Backing from Christie, a rising star in the party, will be a big boost for Romney. Romney, 64, who lost to Senator John McCain in the party's 2008 nomination race, can solidify his lead with a strong performance in Tuesday's Republican debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He has overtaken Texas Governor Rick Perry in opinion polls.

Here are five facts about Romney.

* His best-known achievement as governor was statewide healthcare reform that became a model for President Barack Obama's national policy. Romney has defended the state law while calling for the repeal of Obama's federal version, a tricky balancing act.

* He is a fifth-generation Mormon whose forebears were involved in the U.S.-based religious movement from the mid-19th century. Romney spent 30 months in France as a Mormon missionary in the 1960s, and speaks French. His faith might prove an impediment among some evangelical Christian voters who do not consider Mormonism a form of Christianity.

* Romney aimed squarely at the Republican center when he unveiled his economic program on September 6, proposing spending cuts and lower taxes and picking well-known party figures as advisers. His 59-point economic plan promises to cut corporate taxes, reduce federal regulations and get tough with China.

* Originally a management consultant, Romney went on to head the private equity firm Bain Capital, amassing a fortune estimated at $250 million. He stepped in to rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, after the games were tarred by bribery allegations and feel behind revenue benchmarks.

* He grew up in Michigan, where his father, George Romney, was a three-term governor and automobile executive. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah and later from Harvard University with a joint degree in business and law. Romney married his high-school sweetheart in 1969 and has five sons and 16 grandchildren. He has homes in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California.