LAMBRO: Skirting the lane-closure issue

Christie still leads the GOP pack for 2016

We’re getting closer to the 2015-16 presidential-election cycle, and for many White House aspirants, it’s already begun in earnest.

The talk among Republicans, especially in the nation’s capital, is about the early leaders in the GOP’s presidential sweepstakes and who stands the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton.

There are many forecasts floating about, but here’s one that seems certain right now: Republicans will nominate a governor who has had experience running a government, getting policies enacted in a divided state legislature, and leading.

If there is one lesson the voters have learned under the incompetent presidency of Barack Obama, it is that the job of chief executive requires a lot of training and experience. This is no job for a freshman legislator who has never run anything, but thinks he can run our country by just giving speeches.

We’ve had six presidents since the mid-1970s, and four of them have been governors. It’s a safe bet one of the major governors now grappling with the problems in their states will take the presidential oath of office in 2017.

The Republican Party has a lot of gubernatorial talent to choose from. Twenty-nine of the nation’s 50 governors are Republicans, many from big states such as Florida, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan and, of all places, New Jersey.

This brings us to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who many politicos see as the GOP’s front-runner, despite the political scandal behind the disastrous lane closings that led to traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge.

There are investigative hearings to come and ongoing law enforcement inquiries, too. If none shows Mr. Christie had any role in that tawdry business, or knew anything at all about it, he remains a major contender with a strong, national following.

As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he has plans to campaign across the country this year for his party’s gubernatorial candidates, picking up IOUs and broadening his national political appeal.

However, he’s going to have a lot of political company on the campaign trail. The top tier of major challengers will be fellow governors who are also testing the waters, polling voters and sizing up their chances in the party primaries.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich has presided over a much-improved economy, pushing the unemployment rate down two points and adding 125,000 jobs to the state’s payrolls. Mr. Kasich calls his state’s recovery the “Ohio miracle,” and a majority of the voters in this pivotal electoral state seem to approve of his policies. His job-approval polls shot up to 52 percent late last year.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is also seeking re-election this year, has taken a high-unemployment state and pounded its jobless rate down to 6.3 percent over his term.

Mr. Walker has become a folk hero in his party for surviving a union-funded recall election after enacting major reforms in government spending. Supporters say his agenda has broad, nationwide appeal among voters concerned about the federal government’s crushing public debt.

Others have been mulling a presidential run, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who ran a disastrous campaign in the 2012 primaries, but may try again.

But political handicappers such as The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, writing Thursday in a blog, said he still thinks Mr. Christie is “the front-runner for the Republican nomination despite his recent traffic troubles.”

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