ASPEN, Colorado–Chris Christie’s snub of the Republican challenger to New York Governor and Christie pal Andrew Cuomo is causing a surprising amount of bad blood here, the site of an Republican Governors Association conference, including behind-the-scenes gamesmanship between Christie and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Christie, the New Jersey Governor and RGA Chairman, has refused to direct RGA funds to back Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, who is far behind in polls and campaign funds against Cuomo, saying “we don’t invest in lost causes.”
Tuesday, Astorino fired back, calling for Christie to resign as RGA chairman.
According to Astorino allies familiar with the matter, Christie returned the favor by privately urging Ed Cox, the New York State Republican Chairman, to “dis-invite” Astorino from the RGA conference.
Enter Perry, who caught wind of the burgeoning conflict and called Astorino, telling him he could attend the conference as his guest.
“Perry said he would introduce Astorino to lots of people at the conference including donors,” one Republican source told Breitbart News.
Wednesday night, Perry made his point perfectly clear, tweeting out a photo of him standing arm-in-arm with Astorino. “Glad to be with my buddy @RobAstorino in Aspen,” the tweet 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,” said Jessica Proud, a spokeswoman for the Astorino.
Cox, for his part, said “I was happy to be with Rob Astorino for the RGA meeting in Aspen where he met with many Governors who will come to New York to campaign for him and donors who have pledged their support.”
Although Astorino is 37 points behind Cuomo in the polls, and has raised $2.4 million to Cuomo’s $35 million, Christie’s critics are pointing to his close relationship with Cuomo and history of looking out for his personal brand at the cost of the Republican party.
In December, the New York Post reported that Astorino sources said Christie had told Astorino he wanted him to beat Cuomo and he would do everything in his power to help him do so.
“I spoke to Gov. Christie this morning, who told me the exact opposite,” Cuomo said shortly after the story ran.
Christie and Cuomo are known to have a close relationship, and a partner for Christie adviser Mike Duhaime’s consultant firm – which boasts the RGA as a client – is an active participant in a “Republicans for Cuomo” group.
The RGA has paid the firm, Mercury Public Affairs, $146k since December on political consulting services, according to IRS filings. The bio for partner Mike McKeon reads, “During his time with Mercury, Mike served as Executive Director of Republicans for Cuomo, helping Governor Andrew Cuomo build bipartisan support for his overwhelming victory in 2010.”
Astorino allies also note that Christie himself was, according to Christie, once a long-shot candidate in a blue state like Astorino.
“No one thought I was going to win in 2009,” Christie said during a visit to California where he campaigned with Neel Kashkari, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s Republican opponent, who is down 20 points in polls.
Another long shot GOP race Christie campaigned for last month was in New Hampshire. Walt Havenstein, a GOP businessman, is 26 points behind Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan, according to a new WMUR Granite State Poll.
In defending his decision not to back Astorino, Christie said the RGA doesn’t “pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes.” However, the RGA, then under the chairmanship of Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, spent $1.7 million on Christie’s reelection campaign, which he won by 27 points.
Managing obvious White House aspirations, Christie is known for enjoying the fruits of his party’s and base’s labor while brushing off the party and the base at the same time, in lieu of his own agenda.
He famously refused to campaign for Mitt Romney in the closing days of the 2012 presidential campaign, all while effusively praising President Obama’s handling of Hurricane Sandy.
In November, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli “begged” Christie to campaign with him. Although the RGA did send millions to Cuccinelli’s campaign, Christie wouldn’t appear with Cuccinelli because he was concerned about his personal brand, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd reported.