Early glimpses of how the GOP presidential primary battles will play out in 2016 are already starting to take shape. After days of sparring over national security, defense spending, and the general direction of the Republican Party (now with ‘king of bacon’ name-calling), Sen. Rand Paul and Gov. Chris Christie are seeing their first high-profile supporters emerge.
Rep. Peter King told CNN Wednesday that he opposed Paul’s stance on foreign policy and defense. “He talks about us wanting to start wars and somehow people enjoy war and he talks about how we want to bomb everything. Is that what he thinks our military does?” King asked.
King, who said he would “certainly consider” a 2016 run, defied Paul’s calls to halt the infighting and instead blamed the Kentucky senator and his supporters for further dividing the Republican Party. “The Republicans had this debate back in the 1930s, when you had the isolationist and the Charles Lindberghs, and the Democrats had it in the 1960s when the anti-war movement blamed America first. In both cases it hurt the party for years.”
Meanwhile, former House speaker and former presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is siding firmly with Team Paul, telling Laura Ingraham Thursday morning, “I consistently have been on the side of having the courage that Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have, and I think it’s sad to watch the establishment grow hysterical, but frankly they’re hysterical because they have no answers.”
Gingrich praised Paul and Cruz for having the courage to question the establishment, and said that although he supported both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he now believes it’s time to step back. “Republicans have a real obligation to ask themselves the question, ‘Aren’t there some pretty painful lessons to learn from the last 10 or 12 years? Don’t we have to confront the reality that this didn’t work as a strategy?’”
Paul and Christie have been trading barbs since last week, after Christie accused the Kentucky senator of engaging in “esoteric, intellectual debates” about national security with little progress. Paul responded by chiding Christie for reaping in federal benefits for his state while the country faces a national deficit.
On Wednesday, Paul discussed the feud with the New Jersey governor on Fox News, and said the fighting had become too personal. “We’re going to have to patch things up,” Paul said. “I’m inviting him for a beer anytime he would like to come down and sit down at the pub right around the corner from the Senate.”
Christie dismissed Paul’s invitation Thursday morning on a local New Jersey radio station. “I didn’t use any childish phrases like, ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.’ He did, and I just have to assume from that that he’s trying to get some attention.”
Christie added, ”If I find myself in Washington, I’ll certainly look him up. But I’ve got work to do here.”