Oh yes, consider the hostile game of pong that shall be the 2016 GOP national security debate joined. Bounce. Over to you, Rand.

ASPEN, Colo. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Thursday offered a clear broadside against Republicans drifting toward a more libertarian view of foreign policy, lumping Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in with them and suggesting they explain their position to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The House earlier this week narrowly voted against a reduction in funding for the National Security Agency, as libertarian-leaning members from both sides joined together to vote for the amendment.

“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.

Asked whether he includes Paul — a fellow potential 2016 presidential candidate — in his criticism, Christie didn’t back down.

“You can name any one of them that’s engaged in this,” he said. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. … I’m very nervous about the direction this is moving in.”

I believe I’m paraphrasing Ace of Spades when I say, shortly after 9/11 there was a group of voters that were understandably transformed from hawks (or even doves) into super-hawks. These days, there aren’t as many super-hawks to rally. Christie’s way of putting this should be, according to conventional wisdom, quite effective. A harkening back to the pain of 9/11, an invocation of a personal connection to its victims, and a call for caution in dismantling what worked to protect us during the Bush administration. I’m mindful of all those points, and yet, still not convinced that collecting metadata on every phone call of every American is the right balance of civil liberties and security. There’s plenty of evidence there are others who would like to see more “caution” in negotiating exactly how we secure ourselves. For instance, hmmm.

But how many of them are in Iowa, or New Hampshire? And, how would this “dangerous thought” fare against a Democrat?

In a hypothetical head-to-head contest with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is the clear front-runner with support from over 50 percent of Democratic primary voters in the poll, Paul falls far short of victory: he trails Clinton 39 percent to 47 percent. Rubio would do slightly better, trailing 40 percent to 45 percent.

Christie does pick interesting issues on which to reinforce his righty bonafides, huh?

Update: Allahpundit reminds me of the last volley in this game.