Washington (CNN) — Rob Astorino, New York’s GOP candidate for governor, was urged not to attend a Republican Governors Association meeting in Aspen this week after publicly clashing with the group’s chairman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, over support for his underdog campaign, which Christie called “a lost cause.”
Astorino rebuffed the request — which was made by an unidentified RGA staffer who said the group wanted to “avoid conflict” at the meeting — and went ahead with an overnight trip to the St. Regis Hotel in Aspen to meet with donors and other governors, GOP sources familiar with incident told CNN.
In an effort to tamp down the controversy, the two Republicans came together during a dinner at an Aspen ranch on Wednesday evening in what one Astorino source described as “a very curt, brief meeting.”
“We kind of agreed to disagree on this one and we move on,” Astorino, the Westchester County Executive, said Thursday morning in an interview on Fred Dicker’s radio show in New York.
Christie sparked the high-profile Republican-on-Republican flame war on Monday when he pointedly dismissed Astorino’s underdog campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Asked by a reporter if the RGA would support Astorino in the New York race, Christie answered with characteristic bluntness: “We don’t invest in lost causes,” he said.
The comment enraged Astorino and his campaign, long suspicious that Christie is trying to protect Cuomo on the sly this year. Though a Democrat, Cuomo is said to have a productive working relationship with his GOP colleague across the Hudson River.
But even more infuriating for the Astorino campaign — and some other GOP governors and potential 2016 rivals watching from afar — was the spectacle of one of the country’s most famous Republicans publicly refusing to help another Republican get elected in a big midterm year, even if campaign funds aren’t on the way. Astorino trails Cuomo by almost 40 points in the polls.
The “lost cause” remark was a particular sore spot: Not only had Christie welcomed $1.7 million in RGA funds during his non-competitive blowout re-election bid last year, as RGA chairman he’s campaigned this year for long-shot Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in states like California and New Hampshire as well.
Astorino lit into Christie on Tuesday during an earlier appearance on Dicker’s show, saying that the New Jersey governor should step down from the RGA if he’s refusing to support other Republican candidates.
"Clearly, he could come across the bridge and not just raise money for himself, but raise money for the Republican candidate here — unless he is unable or unwilling because he has an issue that we don't know about with Andrew Cuomo and the bridgegate scandal," Astorino told Dicker, twisting the knife.
After the tirade, the RGA reached out to Astorino’s campaign through Ed Cox, the New York Republican Party Chairman, and said he should not come to Aspen, multiple GOP sources confirmed to CNN. Astorino dismissed the request.
Catching wind of the story, emissaries for other Republican governors — including two of Christie’s potential 2016 rivals, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — reached out to Astorino and told him to ignore the request and come to Aspen.
In Aspen, the Astorino campaign said they won commitments from Perry, Jindal, and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to host fundraisers for him in New York.
And Perry, in what can only be described as an act of high-stakes Christie trolling, tweeted a picture of himself with his arm around Astorino at the Aspen event on Wednesday night.
“Glad to be with my buddy @RobAstorino in Aspen,” Perry wrote.