Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal get heated during GOP debate

MILWAUKEE — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spent much of the undercard Republican debate here Tuesday night sparring with each other.

Jindal repeatedly attacked his rivals, including Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, for being insufficiently conservative and failing to cut government spending in their home states. Christie responded to the jabs by turning the focus onto the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.

“I want to guarantee you one thing real clearly, if you think that Mike Huckabee won’t be the kind of president who will cut back spending, or Chris Christie, or a John Kasich, wait till you see what Hillary Clinton will do to this country and how she will drown us in debt,” Christie said, adding, “She is the real adversary tonight, and we better stay focused, as Republicans, on her.”

Tuesday night’s Republican debates are being hosted by the Fox Business Network and the Wall Street Journal. The first debate featured candidates who are at the back of the pack in the polls. A second debate, at 9 p.m. EST, follows with the GOP’s leading presidential hopefuls. Christie had previously been participating in the top-tier debates, but his poor showing in national polls — even as his numbers have improved in New Hampshire — got him demoted for this round.

The Tuesday night feud began when Jindal was asked whether Democrats’ victories in the most recent presidential elections show the GOP needs to adopt a different message. He responded by saying Republicans need to focus on cutting government, and saying that he is the only candidate who has a record of doing so.

“What if Republicans actually embraced our own principles? … You want bigger paychecks, you want more jobs, you want less government dependence, you’re going to have to cut government spending,” Jindal said. “Here’s the dirty little secret. You’re going to hear a lot of Republicans tonight in this debate and the next one talk about cutting government spending. It’s going to sound great. There’s only one of us that’s actually cut government spending, not two. There is one — and you’re looking at him.”

Christie addressed the charge by promising that, as president, he would “reduce taxes” and “grow the economy” by focusing on “entitlement reform” and cutting regulation.

“The bottom line, is believe me, Hillary Clinton’s coming for your wallet everybody,” Christie said. “Don’t worry about Huckabee or Jindal. Worry about her.”

When Jindal doubled down on his attack, Christie claimed he has cut spending in New Jersey “except for our pension and health care … which is driven predominantly by Obamacare.“

Christie also attempted to take the high road and compliment Jindal, while saving his shots for Clinton. Christie pointed to the fact he was elected in a staunchly blue state, while simultaneously arguing that he would be the best suited to defeat Clinton out of the Republican field.

“I would say this, I have great respect for Bobby’s record in Louisiana. I think he’s been a great governor. I think he’s provided outstanding leadership,” said Christie, before adding, “My point is this, you know the differences between me and Bobby Jindal. We can talk about those, and obviously Bobby wants to spend a lot of time tonight talking about that. I’ll tell you what I want to talk about. I want to talk about what’s going to happen to this country if we have another four years of Barack Obama’s policies. And by the way, it’ll be even worse, because Hillary Clinton is running so far to the left to try to catch up to her socialist opponent, Bernie Sanders, it’s hard to even see her any more.”

Jindal was clearly not appeased by Christie’s compliments.

“Look, I appreciate Chris’ nice compliments to me … this isn’t about me and Chris, this is about the country,” Jindal said.

(Cover tile photo: Morry Gash/AP)