TODAY   |  July 31, 2013

Rand Paul, Chris Christie feud over NSA, spending

Harsh words between Congressman Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie show deep divisions within the GOP about national security and federal spending and have many wondering if their barbs are a preview of 2016. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>> the republican side between new jersey governor chris christie and kentucky senator rand paul . peter is at the white house with that story. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning. these men have been mixes it up for days and the way they are trading words recently has many people convinced that the 2016 republican presidential campaign is well underway.

>> this is the king of bacon talking about bacon.

>> reporter: the latest in this political beef is about pork. a republican family feud growing nastier by the sound bite . kentucky senator rand paul .

>> governor christie and others have been part of this give me, give me, give me. give me all this money.

>> reporter: versus new jersey governor chris christie .

>> maybe he should look at the spending he brings home to kentucky .

>> reporter: the first jab thrown last thursday with christie bashing lawmakers like paul that oppose some nsa surveillance programs.

>> we came a long way from where we began.

>> reporter: by references the victims of 9/11.

>> these intellectual debates, i want them to come to new jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. and they won't.

>> reporter: paul fired back on fox news.

>> it's really, i think, kind of sad and cheap that he would use the cloak of 9/11 victims and say, oh, i'm the only one who cares about these victims. hogwash.

>> reporter: on tuesday christie swatted away his rival's attack.

>> his response is something personal against me. just get in line on that front.

>> reporter: both republicans sharpening their elbows. a possible review of things to come in 2016 . this fight isn't just about two strong personalities. it also highlights the stark contrast of competing ideologies within the republican party right now. the tea party on one side and more conservatives on the other with the future direction of the gop at stake.

>> peter alexander at the white house . thank you. let's bring david gregory in. two colorful characters. both have a way with words. both potential contenders for 2016 but this is about the heart of the republican party and the direction it wants to go.

>> there will be a big fight in the party in part going back to 201 saying we didn't have somebody conservative in mitt romney and therefore we lost. there's a lot of people in the party saying that. this is going to be a big split about the role of government. whether it's spending and taxes or the more liberal speak fighting against the surveillance programs and other things. that's where the fight started over national security . chris christie is going to be much more traditional as a strong national security hawk within the republican party .

>> all right. david gregory . great to get your take on political stories this morning. thank