WASHINGTON — Forget about Mitt Romney vs. Newt Gingrich. In a tantalizing GOP undercard, Sarah Palin is now picking a fight with Chris Christie after the New Jersey governor and top Romney backer called Gingrich an “embarrassment” to the GOP.
Christie made the charge about the former House speaker Sunday in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I think Newt Gingrich has embarrassed the party over time,” Christie said, referring to an ethics fine Gingrich paid and his being “run out of the speakership by his own party.” “Whether he’ll do it again in the future, I don’t know. But Gov. Romney never has.”
Palin, speaking with the Fox Business Network, called that a “rookie mistake” on the part of Christie, who is two years into his governorship.
“I think if Chris were asked about some of his past actions, taking a state helicopter to his kid’s baseball game, some people may say, well, that sort of embarrassed your party,” Palin said, according to a transcript provided by the network.
Christie in June said he would reimburse the state for flights on a state police helicopter that were for personal, not official reasons — of which there were about three dozen.
Palin seemed most troubled that Christie was feeding into the narrative of the dreaded mainstream — or “lamestream,” as she might put it — media. The comment, she said, showed Christie lacked “self-discipline.”
“Sometimes if your candidate loses in just one step along this path ... you kind of get your panties in a wad and you may say things that you regret later. And I think that that’s what Chris Christie did,” Palin said.
Officially, Palin has not thrown her support behind a candidate in the Republican presidential race. But there is plenty to indicate where she is leaning.
Her husband, Todd, endorsed Gingrich earlier this month. The former Alaska governor also said before Saturday’s South Carolina primary that if she were a voter there, she would pick Gingrich to keep the nomination battle going.
Palin’s remarks were part of a longer interview set to air Monday night in which she also says again that she won’t enter the race.
“We need to be united,” she said. “We can’t be spewing things about each one of these candidates just because maybe personally we have a burr under the saddle against one or two of the candidates and feed right into the Democrats’ hands.”