Grace Panetta from Business Insider discussed 11 political friendships that crossed party lines. In the section on Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy, Hatch says: “I have to say that we became very dear friends. That doesn’t mean we didn’t fight each other. We fought each other like tooth and tongue but afterwards, we’d put our arms around each other and laugh about it,” Hatch told NPR in 2009 after Kennedy’s death.
Given the context, this appears to be a mashup of “tooth and nail, fight/with” (furiously or fiercely) and “hammer and tongs” (energetically or enthusiastically). Tongue sounds like tong (almost a homophone) and so the speaker was probably thinking “tongs”, but that still is a malaphor. The two expressions indicate doing something with great passion, hence the mixup. A tooth is near the tongue, so the substitution of tongue for nail. A big thanks to Lou Pugliese for spotting this one.