We’re nearly through the initial phase of the presidential campaign – we know who’s running, who’s well positioned to compete, and roughly what the candidates’ platforms are going to look like. If this were a literal race, the runners have all effectively taken their place in the starting blocks. The next phrase tends to get a little … livelier.
On ABC yesterday morning, “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos said, in reference to some of the shots across the candidates’ bows, “The gloves are off, I can see that right now.” I think that’s probably a little premature, but there appears to be one Republican presidential hopeful who’s more eager than most to throw some jabs.
Here, for example, is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) going after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas):
…Christie took aim at 2016 Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) on Friday, accusing him and other lawmakers of “hypocrisy” over federal disaster relief. ”We have Sen. Cruz, who voted against Sandy relief. Now he says he’s got floods in Texas. He says, ‘Hey, we need some help down here in Texas.’ It’s great, right?” Christie said in the early-voting state of Iowa, according to CNN.
And here’s Christie taking on Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
“The president’s first job has to be to protect the lives of American citizens and yet you have folks, some of whom are running for president, who stood on the floor of the United States Senate and weakened our country, and then sent videos of it to raise money and brag about how much money they raised from it,” he said. “To me, that’s a disgrace.”
And here’s Christie going after senators in general:
“Just don’t make the wrong vote on the markup in the subcommittee. Is that really who you want to run the country? Someone who has become an expert in not making the wrong vote on the mark-up on the subcommittee?”
To be sure, Christie’s not the only one throwing elbows. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Friday drew a contrast between “fighters” and “winners,” with Republican senators in the former category. “They have yet to win anything and accomplish anything,” Walker said.
As political pugilism goes, all of these jabs are pretty mild, and we’re still months away from televised attack ads.
But let this be a reminder to campaign observers: one of the under-appreciated byproducts of a crowded Republican field is the inevitable crossfire. These GOP candidates have spent the last few months complaining about President Obama and Hillary Clinton, but we’re slowly reaching the point at which they start turning on one another – they have primary rivals to dispatch before they can prepare in earnest for the general election.
And when these folks do take the gloves off, it’s going to get ugly.