Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

Rand Paul-Chris Christie Feud Gets a New Jersey ‘What Sup Witch Yew?’

Rand Paul

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

By the end of this first week back, a Capitol that’s emotionally spent from the Syria debate and still anxious about a budget impasse will be sorely in need of a diversion.

Ideally, it will combine a generous portion of campaign maneuvering, plenty of tart-tongued rhetoric and a bit of insight for those already playing the parlor game of handicapping the next presidential race.

Fortunately, enervated lawmakers and aides need to look no farther than 210 miles up the road, to a banquet hall in the middlebrow New Jersey suburb of Clark. On Friday, this will be the site of the next installment in the feud that’s been captivating the attention of the political class all summer — even though one of the combatants has wagered he’ll win this round by staying away.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has committed to being there, for the stated reason of headlining a fundraiser for Steve Lonegan, the sacrificial GOP lamb in the special election that’s going to send Cory Booker to the Senate.

Gov. Chris Christie just as definitely won’t be there, for the stated reason that it’s his wife’s 50th birthday and he’s got long-standing plans to whisk her to an undisclosed location for a long weekend.

Of course, the motives are more complicated than that, for both Kentucky’s junior senator and New Jersey’s about-to-win-a-second-term chief executive.

The two may be about as ideologically far apart as it gets in today’s Republican Party leadership, and neither may have the elasticity required to secure the 2016 nomination on the right and then prevail in the general election from the center.

But both Paul and Christie have this much in common:

  1. They are practiced political plotters.
  2. Both have made an electoral virtue of plain-spokenness.
  3. Each sees benefit in making a foil out of the other guy.
  4. Both have decided they can color the Garden State red on the electoral map for the first time in a quarter-century.

Paul’s presence will command ample television coverage at a time when the state is more focused on politics than any in the nation: on the Oct. 16 special election to decide who will complete the final two years of the late Frank R. Lautenberg’s Senate term, followed three weeks later by the gubernatorial and state legislative elections that will propel Christie to a second term.

By happy coincidence, Paul will get extra attention in the nation’s No. 1 media market right after he assumes a prominent role on the Senate floor opposing authority for a military strike on Syria. The generally hawkish Christie has uncharacteristically decided to avoid that debate altogether. (A dispute over national security, in which Christie called Paul’s views “very dangerous,” was what started their series of spats earlier in the summer.)

What’s more, raising the profile of Lonegan could help Paul achieve the objective of destabilizing Christie whenever possible.

The governor is pushing to run up his margin of victory against Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, hoping it will cement his national standing among donors, party playmakers and even some conservative primary voters. He wants to show them he can be the popular-in-the-blue-and-purple-states candidate they’ll need to win back the White House.

Of course, that goal won’t be made easier if independents are reminded that the New Jersey GOP is also home to Lonegan, a combustible social conservative and tea party favorite.

While Christie has endorsed his party’s Senate nominee, the two are not allies in any way: The former mayor of suburban Bogota (who also headed the state chapter of the Koch brothers’ super PAC, Americans for Prosperity), Lonegan ran a combative and competitive primary against Christie four years ago. And the governor has a friendly relationship with Booker, whose cruise toward the Senate has been complicated just a bit by the innuendos (coming from Lonegan) about his sexuality.

That’s one reason being the most prominently absent guest at the Lonegan rally makes total sense for Christie.

Keeping his distance from Paul also reinforces the notion — very popular in post-Superstorm Sandy New Jersey and, the governor hopes, sell-able nationwide — that Paul’s brand of small-government conservatism is both unrealistic and inappropriate in a country where big-time calamities and major national and international challenges demand a robust federal response.

Staying away also prevents Christie from leaving any impression he’s forgiven a rival who labeled him “king of bacon” for seeking so much disaster relief for the state.

“In a choice between Mary Pat Christie and Rand Paul, it’s no choice for me, so I’ll be with Mary Pat,” he told reporters last week — making sure video of the verbal shiv was posted on his official gubernatorial website. It’s the second time this summer that Christie publicly stood up Paul, having said he was much too busy in July to accept the senator’s invitation to come down to Washington so they might “kiss and make up” over a beer.

New Jersey has long been a financial force in national politics: The $19.5 million its residents gave to 2012 candidates was topped by only seven other states. But it hasn’t been a true tossup since Bill Clinton’s narrow victory there in 1992. In the five elections since then, the Democratic presidential margin has averaged almost 15 points.

And the state hasn’t produced any presidential contenders, let alone nominees, in the century since Woodrow Wilson took office.

Christie plans to change those patterns next time. Paul has very different plans. Whether either plot works out, the Jersey resurgence looks to continue. Booker’s 51st birthday is in 2020.

  • Nick Riley

    Kerry, Obama and Hillary support the gut-eating Syrian rebels.

    Rand Paul is wise to avoid the entire Syrian quagmire.

    Chris Crisco will take his marching orders from the neocons.

    Rand Paul is nobody’s puppet.

    Rand Paul 2016.

    • Sally

      Don;t be so sure. Obama is a master at manuevering. If he wanted to attack, he would have. If he wanted Congressional approval, he would have been against attacking. He is not going to get approval, so he will still look like a hawk to the world, while getting the GOP to do exactly what he wants. And Hillary? Must we remind you that while she was Sec. of State, we did not get involved in any new conflicts?

  • George Ramos

    When we develop or discover new skills that improve our own lot, we gain the ability to make a better contribution to our friends and fellows.

  • Liberty: Coercion’s Absence

    By no means would our stress and discontent be eliminated under a collectivist system where authority’s orders replace liberty’s choices.

  • Daniel Ryan

    I really want to know why there is no talk of containing Syria, rather than intervening or not intervening. Why not just do in Syria what worked in Iraq throughout the 90’s? Hit Assad with the stiffest sanctions possible and establish no-fly zones to protect civilians from both him and the rebels and then just let them fight it out until there is a definitive outcome on the ground that can be worked around.

    • Joao

      I will tell you why. Someone (Ron Paul) put it plainly that sanctions are an act of war. (I would not put up with it)

      Any blowback that a government/people suffer is your own fault.

      Stay current. A Russian solution is on its way. Why would Assad listen to US/Kerry threats anyway.

  • Jason

    like reagan, when you look at paul, you just get the sense that the guy is a true american that loves his country and not power or prestige.

    • YouNeedMeds


  • oldhandatthis

    Unless they negotiate a truce Paul would be wise to avoid getting up on the same stage as Christi.

    • Nick Riley

      If the stage can hold Christie’s weight, we certainly don’t have to worry about Dr Paul begin the one to crumble the stage.

      Just make sure Chris Crisco goes up first to test the structural integrity of the stage.

      • oldhandatthis

        I was referring to what will happen if Paul provokes Christi. For example he could point out there is no daylight between Paul’s brand of “libertarianism” and the John Birch Society.

        • Nick Riley

          I am also opposed to globalism and the communist agenda of one-world government.

          Kristie Kreme is part of the problem. Rand Paul is the solution.

          • oldhandatthis

            Exactly what do you mean by globalism? Communist are an endangered species, the Communist Party of China doesn’t even pretend anymore.

          • Nick Riley

            Do you own a dictionary?

            I use the dictionary definitions.

            Underground does not mean endangered.

    • Charles Wolf

      It would be like a collision of matter and anti-matter.
      We just need for randy & crispy to become a bunch of doesn’t matter.

      • oldhandatthis

        I agree Paul isn’t a serious contender but Christi has the potential to mount a strong general election campaign if he can get through the nomination process.

        • Nick Riley

          Chris Crisco couldn’t even mount his wife. Crisco is not going to mount a successful campaign.

          Crisco is just controlled opposition to allow Killary to waltz in.

          • oldhandatthis

            Do you use aluminum foil to keep those alien voices out of your head?

          • Nick Riley

            No. But this Democrat did.

            This is the only time I have ever seen or heard of someone with a tinfoil fetish.

            You are quite pathetic if you are supporting Killary Clinton.

          • Joao

            I’m not concerned.

          • Nick Riley

            Why would you be concerned?

            You liberals who support Obombya as he intervenes needlessly to support the gut-eating Syrian rebels have never concerned yourself with the consequences of your decisions.

            See for yourself sweetheart.

  • thereasonableprogressive

    “… Paul’s brand of small-government conservatism is both unrealistic and inappropriate in a country where big-time calamities and major national and international challenges demand a robust federal response.” Exactly. This statement explains why Senator Senator Paul and the Tea Party should never govern this country, and why they probably never will.

  • Nick Riley

    Voting for Killary because she is half female is just as hollow as voting for Obooombya just because he is half black.

    You pathetic liberals are all about hollow votes.

    Now your hollow votes are getting American resources pulled into the Syrian Sandbox.


    • Joao

      I am from Massachusetts. I know history (latest Senatorial race). Hillary will say that Rand Paul hates women and they will all go along with the hate/division ride and vote female.

      You heard it here first. You heard it here first. You heard it here first.

      Cousin Rand: Please don’ bother. Lead an escape attempt/emigration to somewhere else where liberty reigns. Save yourself.

      Remember me, that I told you it first. All of you. Division/hate rules with the masses. You already know that. Get out now!

      • Nick Riley

        Killary supports these bloody gut-eating Syrian rebels.

        Martin Luther King is rolling in is grave.

        The color of his skin and the content of her crotch are counting for more in the liberal mind than the actual “content of character” that MLK preached.

        Obama supporting the gut-eating rebels is very “unpleasant.”

        See for yourself sweetheart.

      • Nick Riley

        Hillary defended her cheating husband. That should garner the feminist vote.

      • sameolbs

        So, we are just suppose to shut_up because the ignorant masses want to run the country…..into the ground. Nope, he needs to fight, we all need to fight.

    • YouNeedMeds

      You are an idiot.

      • Nick Riley

        MLK rolls in his grave.

  • YouNeedMeds

    Are you kidding me? Paul is a lunatic. Any politician who hates government so much should consider another profession. I bet you’d love to have a dentist or doctor who hates his field too, huh? Mindless.

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