WASHINGTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie once again has his sights trained on Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Christie reprised his favorite line of attack against Paul in national TV interviews and on the trail Sunday and Monday morning, slamming the libertarian-leaning senator for his opposition to the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs.
“We’re going to look back on this and he should be in hearings in front of Congress if the country is attacked,” Christie said of his fellow Republican presidential contender in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
On Sunday, Christie charged that Paul’s actions had made the country “weaker and more vulnerable.”
Paul led the charge against the domestic surveillance programs authorized under the Patriot Act this spring, leading to the programs’ temporary expiration and the ultimate triumph of reform efforts that Paul insisted did not go far enough. Paul also used his marathon 10-hour speech on the Senate floor to raise money, with his campaign sending out an email to supporters to fundraise off the effort.
“It’s disgraceful,” Christie said of the fundraising Monday.
Christie, though, also benefited financially off the NSA debate as his political action committee, Leadership Matters for America, also sent out fundraising emails asking supporters to chip in to help Christie stand up to the anti-surveillance efforts of Paul and others.
Christie was Paul’s chief antagonist among the more than a dozen White House hopefuls during Paul’s headline-grabbing anti-surveillance moves in the Senate this spring. The blunt governor accused Paul of endangering the lives of Americans and overblowing the extent of government surveillance on Americans.
Paul shot back at Christie saying the governor worried about the “dangers of freedom” versus “the danger of losing that freedom.” And of Christie’s remark labeling Paul as one of the “misguided ideologues who have no real world experience in fighting terrorism,” Paul retorted that that comment “just wasn’t very nice.”
Under the Patriot Act, the NSA gathered the call records of millions of Americans without a targeted warrant, a practice Paul and other civil libertarians — including other Republicans — argued violated Americans’ rights. The new system will force the NSA to get a warrant to obtain call logs for specific individuals.
Christie is lobbing the same line of attacks at Paul, but this time the ante has been upped, since Christie and Paul are now officially opponents in the GOP presidential race. Christie announced his bid last week.
The two haven’t just grappled over national security issues. Paul has knocked Christie over appearing in an ad touting New Jersey’s recovery post-Hurricane Sandy (calling it a “black eye” on recovery efforts) and Christie’s blunt approach to handling a heckler last year, or as Paul called it, Christie’s “bully demeanor.”
And the two Republicans are also vying for the same prize: the New Hampshire primary. Both Christie and Paul camps are chasing votes in the Live Free or Die state, which is home to the second GOP nominating contest.
And while Paul currently sits in fourth place with 9 percent in a CNN/ORC poll released last week, Christie is behind in sixth place with 5 percent.
But Christie is looking for a political comeback after the Bridgegate scandal undercut his steady political rise, and New Hampshire is where his aides say Christie will resonate the most among the early states.