New Jersey Governor Chris Christie really likes Bruce Springsteen. The Garden State's lightning rod chief executive has famously seen Springsteen in concert over 100 times.
As much as Christie likes The Boss, there's one thing he loves more: starting fights.
That's exactly what happened on Monday morning when Christie attempted to ignite a bi-coastal war of words, trashing 74-year old California Governor Jerry Brown in a speech to the California delegation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
"California made the bad choice by going with an old retread," the Sacramento Bee reports Christie telling the crowd. "Jerry Brown. Jerry Brown? I mean, he won the New Jersey presidential primary over Jimmy Carter when I was 14 years old. And now I've got to sit at the National Governor's Association with this guy and have him come up to me and say, 'Gov. Christie, stop telling people that I want to raise taxes. I'm not trying to raise taxes.'
"And I said, 'Yeah you are, Jerry.' And he said, 'No, no, Chris, I'm not, I want to put them on the ballot and let the people decide...Man, that's leadership, isn't it?", Christie continued. "Jerry Brown is going to establish an awfully failed record, he's already well on his way."
Brown is currently pushing hard for Golden State voters to approve a ballot measure temporarily raising the state's sales tax to 7.5 percent and increasing taxes on top three percent of California residents as a way to address the state's increasingly dire fiscal situation.
Brown has spent much of the past year expending his political capital to sell voters on his tax bill, which, if it fails to pass, will result in drastic cuts to the state's education system.
Brown spokesperson Gil Duran told the Los Angeles Times that Christie was trying to deflect attention from rising unemployment in New Jersey. "It's no wonder Gov. Christie wants to distract from his massive failure with a windstorm of rhetoric," said Duran.
Republican House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) told the Bee in a video interview following the governor's remarks that this was just another example of Christie being Christie.
"He is a straight talker and I think that's why people connect with him--he tells people exactly what he's thinking, what he's feeling," said the southern California Republican. "There's a real distinction between the two [governors]. California has the same challenges as New Jersey. Look at Christie's policy where he's balanced the budget three times and hasn't raised taxes. We have brown coming at the same time proposing to raise more taxes. The balance is not there on the budget."
In a recent piece in the New York Times, firebrand lefty economist Paul Krugman challenged Christie's record in New Jersey, noting the governor's ability to balance his state's budget without tax increases was accomplished with more than a little bit of shady accounting.
"While Mr. Christie has made a lot of noise about his tough budget choices, other governors have done much the same," wrote Krugman. Even the endlessly dysfunctional California state government managed to pass a balanced budget earlier this summer.
"Nor has he eschewed budget gimmicks," the Nobel Prize-winning economist continued, "like earlier New Jersey governors, Mr. Christie has closed budget gaps in part by deferring required contributions to state pension funds, which is in effect a form of borrowing against the future, and he has also sought to paper over budget gaps by diverting money from places like the Transportation Trust Fund."
Christie is scheduled to give the keynote speech at the hurricane-delayed convention often thought of as a "star-making" spot for up-and-coming politicos. It's the same slot that, on the other side of the aisle, vaulted a then-relatively unknown Barack Obama into the national spotlight during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
That elevated profile could serve Christie well in his future political ambitions--or put an even bigger target on his back if popular Newark Mayor Corey Booker makes good on his threat to challenge Christie for the New Jersey governorship next year.