Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee Chairman Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) presides over a hering on 'Superstorm Sandy: The Devastating Impact on the Nation's Largest Transportation Systems.' December 6, 2012 in Washington, DC. Lhota, Shumer and others testified before the subcommittee about the need for more federal dollars for Superstorm Sandy recovery. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The awkward tension between incumbent New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg and the upstart Newark mayor, Cory Booker, who wants to take his seat has reached a fever pitch.

After Booker announced his intention to run, he was careful to say he would seek Lautenberg’s “blessing” and he urged his fellow Democrats to continue to support his potential opponent for the time being.

However, the 88-year-old senator, who turns 89 this week, has not appeared to be as gracious.

In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Lautenberg compared Booker to a disobedient child.

“I have four children, I love each one of them. I can’t tell (you) that one of them wasn’t occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK,” Lautenberg said.

When asked about Booker’s plans for a 2014 run, the senator said: “He’s entitled to do it. He’ll have to stand on his record and I’m sure he won’t be a lone soldier out there drooling at the mouth and wanting this cushy job that we have here.”

Booker filed official papers signaling the start of his campaign this past December, a move the prompted some anonymous supporters of Lautenberg to call the popular mayor “disrespectful” and “self-absorbed.”

“It’s shameful that he avoided challenging a Republican just so that he can take on a long-serving, loyal Democrat,” an unidentified Lautenberg aide told Politico.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released this month showed the NJ Democrats prefer Booker to Lautenberg by a 2-to-1 margin.