On some issues, Paul and Christie sound a lot alike

Updated 3:12 PM EDT, Sun August 3, 2014

Story highlights

Despite their differences, Chris Christie and Rand Paul agree on a few things

They're pushing for reforms to criminal justice laws, and they want to see a more diverse GOP

They sometimes take an "agree to disagree" approach on social issues

Both men are considered potential presidential contenders

Washington CNN —  

It’s been a year since New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky started taking jabs at each other, staking out their ideological territory within the Republican Party.

But the two potential presidential contenders have also been singing the same tune on a few issues as they get closer to 2016.

They’ve been vocal advocates for sentencing reform for nonviolent, drug offenders. On politics, they’ve bluntly urged Republicans to campaign in unfamiliar territory. And on social issues, both sometimes take an “agree to disagree” approach.

Experts say the two are finding common ground, but all three categories fall under the same umbrella: broadening the Republican Party, a narrative that many Republicans support.

“Both men have their eyes squarely fixed on the next presidential election, but they’re also trying to nudge the party as a whole to follow suit in an effort to expand the tent,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

Such a strategy will benefit Christie and Paul if they campaign for the White House. But if they become opponents in the GOP primary, they’ll continue to work to differentiate themselves and corner off their own parts of the GOP electorate.

They’re just both hoping that that electorate will be a lot bigger by the time 2016 rolls around.

The ‘dangerous’ libertarian vs. the king of bacon’

“Feud.” “Spat.” “Battle.” “War of words.”

Almost every fighting term was applied to last year’s back and forth between Christie and Paul.

It started last July at the Aspen Institute in Colorado, when Christie blasted Paul’s “strain of libertarianism” as “a very dangerous thought.”

Paul had been attacking the government’s phone surveillance program unveiled by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden; Christie was defending it.

Paul hit back, attacking Christie for pushing too hard to get Superstorm Sandy aid from the government. He even called the governor “the king of bacon” on federal spending.

The two continued exchanging barbs on surveillance and fiscal issues for weeks. Paul later argued the party was big enough for the both of them, and offered to have a beer with Christie. But the New Jersey governor said he was too busy running for a second term.

For many pundits, their squabble quickly became a clear illustration of the rift between moderate Republicans and the growing libertarian wing of the GOP.

And for the two men themselves, it didn’t hurt to dig in and pick a fight: Christie was in the middle of a re-election campaign in the deeply blue state of New Jersey, and Paul was trying to build his national profile.