What used to be considered internal party differences has spilled into public view with exchanges between possible presidential frontrunners Chris Christie and Rand Paul.

The spat started over the current practices of the NSA. Christie originally criticized people engaging in what he called “esoteric debates” on limitations of government in regards to citizen privacy. He then agreed that Senator Paul was among the people he was describing when the moderator suggested his name. Christie then went on to call libertarian streaks in the Republican Party “Dangerous.”

If Governor Christie had been representing Paul’s stance correctly he would have made a good point.  However, Christie used a straw man debate tactic to distort Paul’s stance, implying that Paul wants to have no National Security. This is a misrepresentation of Paul’s stance that borders on slander.

Christie’s point lacks merit because there is middle ground between arbitrary invasion of citizens’ privacy and no national security. The notion that there has not been a 9/11 scale attack on America because we recorded Meta data for a soccer mom in Tucson is laughable. However, Christie may be more concerned with discrediting a potential rival for the GOP Presidential nomination than having an honest debate over National Security. Christie and Paul represent very different routes that the GOP might take, and this back and forth is likely an opening salvo to a much larger fight.

To be sure, this most recent scuffle between Christie and Paul is about more than National Security. It is, on a larger scale, a struggle for the future of the Republican Party. After the electoral routing of Republicans in the last two Presidential elections, the party stands at a cross roads. On one side are Establishment Republicans, like McCain, Romney, and Christie, who have provided two of the most embarrassing electoral defeats Republicans have seen. Opposing them are men like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee who have provided the only signs of life in the Republican Party since the last election. The rank and file Republicans will have to choose whether they want an exciting new candidate that will grow the Republican base, or just another edition in the likes of McCain.