Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pauses during his speech at a rally at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, Oct. 30, 2015. Reuters/Mark Kauzlarich

(Reuters) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has won the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, a major conservative publication in the 2016 presidential campaign's first primary state.

Union Leader publisher Joseph McQuaid said on Sunday he believed Christie was the candidate who could "take the fight to" Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as well as confront the threat posed by the Islamic State terror group.

"Americans seem to be fed up with Washington, and they're looking for somebody who speaks with the 'bark off,' as we say in New Hampshire. And I think Christie does that," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The endorsement by New Hampshire's top newspaper comes as a possible life raft for the New Jersey governor, who has struggled to connect to a national electorate in early opinion polls.

Among Republicans polled nationwide, only 4 percent said they would back Christie for the party's nomination, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll ended on Nov. 27.

McQuaid said contenders for the coveted endorsement came down to three governors in the congested Republican field: Christie, John Kasich of Ohio and Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida Ultimately, however, McQuaid did not see the two other candidates as electable, citing Bush's lack of fire on the campaign trail.

"Jeb Bush doesn't look like he wants it, and the public senses that," he said. "I'm looking for somebody who can get the nomination, and I don't think either Bush or Kasich can do so."

Still, despite the prominence of the Union Leader in New Hampshire, the Manchester paper's endorsement is not always reflective of a wider trend of support. In 2012, the publication endorsed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for the GOP nomination, which Gingrich ultimately lost to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Reuters' five-day rolling average sample size ranged from 464 to 347 respondents between Nov. 22 and Nov. 27, with a credibility interval of 5.2 to 6.1 percentage points.