- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 13, 2015

A trio of Republican governors gunning for the presidency defended their reform-minded records Sunday ahead of the second GOP candidates’ debate Wednesday, hoping to raise their profiles and catch a pair of front-runners who have no tangible political histories to worry about.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said leaders in Washington could learn a thing from his fight to rein in spending and reform a broken pension system in the Garden State, a traditional Democratic stronghold.

“You can stand up and be strong, as I’ve done in New Jersey, and still find a way to work together and compromise,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But these folks on Capitol Hill have no interest in doing that.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he is ready to “wreak havoc on Washington” by taking on special interests with his union-busting style, even as he has plummeted to the bottom of the GOP primary pack in Iowa, a key state in the Midwesterner’s path to the nomination.

And Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who’s hoping to build on his notable performance in the first Republican debate, said he is a proven reformer with the right mix of experience.

“We need to have somebody who knows how to land a plane, and I’ve landed quite a few planes — chairman of the Budget Committee in Washington, balanced budgets, Pentagon reform turning Ohio around,” Mr. Kasich, a former congressman, told “Fox News Sunday.”

SEE ALSO: Chris Christie: I handled my crisis better than Hillary Clinton is handling hers

All three will be on-stage for the CNN debate Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, hoping to pull air-time from businessman Donald Trump, the flamboyant front-runner who received 27-percent support from likely Iowa caucus-goers in a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday.

The rise of Mr. Trump and Ben Carson, who surged to second in the Iowa poll, with 21 percent, has underscored the “outsider” dynamic in the 2016 race.

Unlike the governors in the race, a crop that includes Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former governors Jeb Bush of Florida and George Pataki of New York, they have no political records to tout or defend. Instead, Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson have leaned on their accomplishments in real estate and medicine.

“Neurosurgeon is not the only thing that I am, although I will tell you that it requires quite a lot of knowledge to become a neurosurgeon and you’re not going to have very many dumb people become neurosurgeons. I will tell you that,” Mr. Carson told ABC’s “This Week.”

“I make deals. And I will bring back jobs. And I will also bring back wealth to our country,” Mr. Trump boasted to CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

By contrast, governors who toured the Sunday talk shows pitched themselves as turn-around artists whose leadership will get Washington to fall in line.

Mr. Christie said his administration has made progress in New Jersey despite nine credit downgrades, which he pinned on recalcitrant public sector unions who will not negotiate on their pensions.

“It’s much better today than it was six years ago,” he said, saying those pensions were “ready to go under” when he took office.

Mr. Walker, who in two months has fallen from 18 percent to 3 percent in Quinnipiac University polling, said he is one of the few candidates to outline a plan for replacing Obamacare and already has stripped funding from Planned Parenthood, the women’s health care provider immersed in controversy over its abortion practices.

“We did it in a blue state,” he said. “There’s no reason why it can’t be done in Washington, and I lay some of that blame on the leadership in the Congress.”

Mr. Kasich said he’s scrambling to defund the group in Ohio, although he warned Congress not to hold the federal government hostage over the issue.

“I think there are other ways for Congress to try to deal with this, and they need to be more creative in regard to Planned Parenthood,” he said. “But when you shut the government down, people don’t like it. And you shouldn’t shut it down unless you have a great chance of success.”

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