Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie is ramping up attacks on his 2024 rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week.
In three separate media interviews Tuesday, the former New Jersey governor called DeSantis a “big government” Republican, torched his voting record on disaster relief and accused him of “playing politics” with President Biden’s visit to Florida after Hurricane Idalia. The flury of attacks comes as DeSantis is set to return to the campaign trail after canceling campaign events to lead the hurricane response in Florida.
Christie, who worked closely with then-President Obama in 2012 to coordinate Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, ripped DeSantis for declining to meet Biden while the president toured areas affected by the disaster.
“He was playing politics with it, but that’s his choice. I’m not the least bit surprised that that’s what he chose to do,” Christie said on “The Brian Kilmeade Show” Tuesday. “You’re the governor of the state. President of the United States comes and you’re asking the President of the United States or the Congress for significant aid, which Ron DeSantis is doing, and especially if you voted against it 10 years ago for Sandy aid, you should have been there with the president to welcome it.”
“Your job as governor is to be the tour guide for the president. It’s to make sure the president sees your people, sees the damage, sees the suffering, what’s going on, and what’s going to need to be done to rebuild it,” Christie added. “And unfortunately, he put politics ahead of his job.”
Hurricane Idalia struck Florida last week as a Category 3 storm, with winds up to 125 mph, shredding homes, ripping off roofs, snapping tall trees and turning streets into rivers.
The storm was later downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved north, hitting Georgia — resulting in at least one confirmed death — and then the Carolinas.
Biden traveled to Florida over the weekend to tour areas affected by Hurricane Idalia. However, DeSantis decided not to meet the president.
White House officials said Saturday they were caught flat-footed by DeSantis’ decision.
Biden had said earlier he would meet with the governor as he toured areas of Florida damaged by Hurricane Idalia, but the DeSantis team contradicted the president.
“In these rural communities, and so soon after impact, the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts,” said DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern.
Christie slammed DeSantis’ decision and also accused the governor of “hypocrisy” for requesting federal aid from the Biden administration.
In an interview with CNN, Christie observed that DeSantis, as a member of Congress, voted against an aid package for New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy blasted the East Coast.
“He voted against Sandy aid in 2012 as a member of the House, and now he wants aid,” Christie said. “You know, this is the hypocrisy that everybody sees in politics and why they’re looking for someone who will just tell them the truth.”
In another interview with CNBC on Tuesday, Christie switched up his attacks and criticized DeSantis for interfering with businesses and government spending in Florida.
“I’m not a big government Republican, like Governor DeSantis is, who thinks that every time you disagree with a position that a corporation takes, you should take punitive action against them,” Christie said on “Last Call.”
The jab was a reference to how DeSantis has fought with Disney over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law — derided as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics — which banned sexual orientation and gender identity content in K-3 classrooms. Disney publicly opposed the law, which prompted DeSantis and the Florida legislature to revoke the company’s special self-governing rights, replacing the Reedy Creek Improvement District with the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The spat led to an ongoing lawsuit filed by Disney accusing DeSantis of violating the company’s free speech rights.
Christie also attacked DeSantis over Florida’s spending, arguing his record in New Jersey, a blue state, was superior.
“Our spending in New Jersey went up an average of 2% a year, for all eight years that I was there,” Christie said. “Just a little over 16% in eight years. You compare that to Florida, for instance, in the last five years spending has gone up 30%.”
The attacks come as Christie is registering in the single digits in GOP primary polls, while DeSantis consistently holds a double-digit second place far behind former President Trump, who is the overwhelming front-runner.
Fox News’ Madeline Coggins and Timothy H.J. Nerozzi contributed to this report.