Rand Paul and Chris Christie get into heated brawl over surveillance during Republican debate
US Senator Rand Paul speaks to supporters during the kickoff of the National Stand with Rand tour on April 7, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky (AFP Photo/Michael B. Thomas)

Paul’s defense of curtailing NSA brought applause from crowd after New Jersey governor had testy response to Kentucky senator’s initial barb over Obama hug

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It might not have looked like at the time, but Rand Paul will be thanking Chris Christie for going head-to-head with him on the issue of balancing surveillance with national security at Thursday’s Republican presidential debate.

The two clashed in the most heated scenes of the debate yet over Paul’s support for curtailing the National Security Agency. When Paul accused Christie in turn of getting too close to the White House and “hugging” Obama, the New Jersey governor shot back that the hugs he remembers were with the families of 9/11 victims.

Yet divisive as the issue is among Republican voters, it is the most distinctive part of Paul’s agenda and his passionate defence of the bill of rights brought warm applause from the crowd. In recent weeks, the Kentucky senator has struggled to connect with anyone and has been dogged by a scandal involving his campaign staff this week. He will be delighted to have been back on familiar territory with one of the most memorable scenes of the night.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015

Watch video of the exchange below: