The spat between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that erupted this summer may seem like it has fizzled. But based on developments during the past few days, it’s safe to say it’s not going away just yet. Why? Three reasons:
1. Paul’s decision to campaign for Steve Lonegan. Paul will head to New Jersey next week to stump for Republican Steve Lonegan, a conservative Senate candidate with virtually no shot at defeating Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) next month. Just one GOP senator helping out another aspiring senator, right? No. Lonegan’s presence in the Senate race is an uncomfortable reality for Christie, and Paul surely knows this. Christie and Lonegan are far from allies (Lonegan lost to Christie in a heated 2009 campaign for governor), and the governor stands to gain little from his presence in the 2013 campaign. The Lonegan campaign’s controversial remarks have forced Christie to keep him at arm’s length. What’s more, Christie and Booker are friendly, so there is even less incentive for Christie to cozy up to Lonegan.
Yes, Lonegan and Paul are aligned on key issues like Syria (both are against military action) and government surveillance (both have said they have deep concerns). But Paul and his team also know that traveling to Christie’s home state to help a Republican Christie isn’t close with was a surefire way to draw renewed attention to their dynamic. And he wouldn’t do it unless he was okay with that.
2. No face time. Paul’s offers to get together with Christie have so far been rebuked. A senior Paul aide says Paul’s campaign reached out the Christie’s team in the hopes of setting up a meeting in New Jersey next week. But Christie will be away with his wife celebrating her 50th birthday, ruling out a one-on-one meeting with Paul or an appearance at the Lonegan event. The only real way to fully diffuse the tension between the two is for them to get together in person. But so far, that hasn’t happened. And there is no indication it will any time soon.
3. Syria. The genesis of the Paul-Christie feud was national security – Christie criticized the libertarian views that Paul and other congressional Republicans have espoused, while Paul hit back with a defense of his positions. Now, national security is back in the forefront of the national political conversation, with Congress set to decide whether or not to approve of President Obama’s push for U.S. military strike against the Syrian government. Paul has come out hard against military intervention. Christie hasn’t weighed in yet. We don’t know what, if anything, Christie will say on Syria (Roberts did not respond to a request for comment on the issue), so it’s too early to conclude that he will be at odds with Paul. But given the deep ideological divide between the two on national security, it would be surprising if they were fully aligned.