Republican Party favorites Chris Christie and Sarah Palin are engaged in a feud of rock-star proportions.
The New Jersey governor and former Alaska governor are two of the best-known figures in the GOP, and both have been mentioned as possible 2012 presidential candidates.
Their feud appears to date back to Christie’s 2009 gubernatorial campaign, when he declined to have Palin, a popular figure with the conservative Tea Party movement, campaign for him.
“This is about New Jersey issues and New Jersey, and I don’t think having Gov. Palin here would do me, or frankly the state, a whole lot of good in the sense that we need to talk and focus on what the New Jersey issues are,” he told a local radio station at the time.
He went on to win in the Democratic-leaning state, thanks to solid support from independents and Democrats, and he’s gone on to become one of the nation’s most-liked politicians.
Christie’s office declined to comment. Palin’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
A Quinnipiac University poll on Monday revealed that Christie scored higher than any other potential 2012 candidate on its “hotness index,” which measures the intensity of warmth voters feel about a figure. Christie has said he won’t be a presidential candidate next year.
Palin, on the other hand, scored lower than 13 other potential 2012 Republican candidates. And, when broken down by party, even among Republicans — where her support is strongest — Palin managed only sixth place, while Christie led all 13 challengers.
Over the weekend, Palin fired her harshest shot yet at Christie. Her words weren’t just inflammatory; the whole context was kerosene.
In an interview on the Fox Business network, Palin was asked about Christie’s recent assertion that the current GOP presidential field wasn’t inspiring.
Palin, who might be a part of that field, disagreed and then veered from the discussion to take on Christie’s record, questioning his political courage and promoting her own.
“He has no choice but to cut budgets, because he’s broke, his state is broke,” she said. Real courage, she argued, is cutting budgets when the state has a surplus.
“And, by the way,” she finished with a flourish, “that’s what I did here [in Alaska].”
The question is why Palin chose to break Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment of not speaking ill of a fellow Republican. The answer might lie in a grudge Palin holds against Christie. To be sure, it often seems Christie has a beef against her as well.
He’s leveled a series of criticisms against Palin over the past year.
For example, he brought some sarcasm to Jimmy Fallon’s late-night NBC show last year, when he was a guest.
After Fallon asked him whether Palin could eventually become president, Christie rolled his eyes and said: “Well, you know, who knows. It’s an amazing world.”
The dig got so much press that conservative radio host Laura Ingraham brought it up on her show the next day during an interview with Palin. The former Alaska governor gave Christie the benefit of the doubt — this time.
“Hopefully, what he’s saying is [that] this is an amazing country where anybody’s work ethic and character can be judged appropriately,” she said.
Beyond that, Palin didn’t go much further.
But Christie did.
Just over a month later, he told The New York Times that for Palin to win the presidency, she needed to hold town hall meetings with unscripted questions and answers — in short, to be more like him.
“I would contend to you that if Gov. Palin never does any of those things, she’ll never be president, because people in America won’t countenance that,” he said.
Then he weighed in on a more emotional issue. After the Arizona shootings, Palin released a video expressing sympathy for the victims but also accusing the media of a “blood libel” for linking her rhetoric to the shooting. She immediately came under criticism for using a phrase which historically refers to an anti-Semitic myth that Jews used children's blood in religious rituals.
When asked about Palin’s video, Christie told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that it was unfair to link Palin’s rhetoric in any way with the shootings, but noted that she should have “just said that and left it at that” without issuing the phrase “blood libel.”
Once again, Palin was silent.
Then — late last month — Christie went on the attack for a familiar reason. He told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Palin needed to open herself up to questions from voters and the mainstream media.
“She may very well be up to it, and if she is, good for her. But I think people want to see that,” he said.
When Christie was asked about Palin’s readiness to be president, he deflected, saying, “I’m making my vote in the voting booth, privately, like every other American.”
It’s perhaps understandable, then, why Palin finally chose to answer his criticism with last weekend’s vicious riff of her own.
-- Heinze, the founder of GOP12.com, is member of the staff at The Hill.
-- This column was updated at 7:53 a.m. on March 10.