NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Several Republican governors eyeing runs for the White House in 2016 are rallying behind the New York gubernatorial candidate spurned by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in an early sign of pre-primary jockeying.
Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, raised eyebrows when he said this week he had no plans to campaign for GOP candidate Rob Astorino, who is running an uphill challenge against Democratic incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Christie said he doesn't "invest in lost causes" during an RGA trip to Connecticut Monday.
But Astorino, who is in Aspen, Colorado for the RGA's summer meeting, surrounded himself with other high-profile supporters. On Thursday, he proudly announced in an interview with an Albany radio station that Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal from Louisiana, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and South Carolina's Nikki Haley have pledged to help him, even if the RGA won't.
Perry even tweeted a photo of himself with his arm over Astorino's shoulder. "Glad to be with my buddy @RobAstorino in Aspen," the accompanying message said.
"The Aspen trip made it clear that governors from around the nation will be helping County Executive Astorino become Governor Astorino. It also made it clear that RGA Chairman Chris Christie will not be among them. We can live with that and we will move on," Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud said.
The spat marks one of the earliest signs of infighting among several of the most high-profile GOP presidential contenders, months before the 2014 midterm elections. It also comes as Christie, who like Perry and Jindal is openly weighing a run, tries to recapture the momentum he had before the George Washington Bridge scandal and move past allegations that he is a bully, more interested in his own political future than the fate of others.
Some top Republicans remain wary of Christie after he appeared chummy with President Obama in the days after Superstorm Sandy. Some went as far as blame him for 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney's loss.
On Thursday night, Christie will join Haley as well as several other governors — Rick Scott of Florida, Sam Brownback of Kansas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin — for an Aspen Institute conversation in Colorado capping off the summer meeting. The governors are they're expected to discuss their approaches to jobs and the economy, as well as education, tax, and immigration policies in their states.
A spokeswoman for Astorino confirmed that he had been asked not to attend the annual RGA summer meeting, but decided to anyway.
The unpleasantness started during Christie's RGA trip to Connecticut Monday. Asked whether he planned to campaign in New York, Christie replied that he doesn't waste time in races Republicans weren't going to win. During a press conference Tuesday, Astorino suggested that Christie step down as chairman of the RGA and added that perhaps the New Jersey governor was reluctant to help him because Cuomo "has something" on Christie related to the bridge scandal. Astorino did not say what that was.
The two men spoke "very briefly" Wednesday night at an RGA dinner, Astorino said Thursday.
"We kind of agreed to disagree on this one. And we move on," he said of the conversation, adding that Christie's remarks were "probably not beneficial" to either Christie or the RGA, whose mission is to elect and re-elect Republican governors.