An escalating feud between the two main rivals for the Republican presidential nomination is akin to a “teenage food fight”, another challenger, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, said on Sunday.
He made the comment after the campaign of Ron DeSantis, the rightwing Florida governor who has slipped in the polls to Donald Trump, released a “homophobic” video attacking the former president for his previous support of the LGBTQ+ community.
It shows DeSantis, whose barrage of attacks on minorities in his own state has drawn praise from his extremist base and condemnation from trans and gay rights advocates, celebrating his signing of “the most extreme slate of anti-trans laws in modern history” and a “draconian anti-trans bathroom bill”.
The video, and Trump’s attacks on DeSantis using “juvenile” nicknames such as Ron Sanctimonious and Meatball Ron, failed to impress Christie, who told CNN’s State of the Union he would prefer the candidates to focus on “real issues” rather than each other.
“I’m not comfortable with it. And I’m not comfortable with the way both Governor DeSantis and Donald Trump are moving our debate in this country,” he said.
“We have nine and a half million children in this country every night who go to bed hungry, we have 21% of our students in 10th grade saying they’re using hard illegal drugs. And this is the kind of stuff that we’re talking about?
“It’s a teenage food fight between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump and I don’t think that’s what leaders should be doing. It doesn’t make me feel inspired as an American, on the Fourth of July weekend, to have this back-and-forth going on.
“It’s narrowing our country and making it smaller. I want a country that’s going to be bigger, and going after the big issues that will make every American feel better about themselves, their families and their country.”
Christie wasn’t the only politician with thoughts about DeSantis’s video on Sunday.
In his own appearance on State of the Union, Democrat Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, who is openly gay, referenced some of the imagery featured in it, specifically masked, shirtless men, including a clip of actor Brad Pitt from the movie Troy.
“I’m going to leave aside the strangeness of trying to prove your manhood by putting up a video that splices images of you in between oiled up shirtless bodybuilders, and get to the bigger issue, which is who are you trying to help?” he said.