Jindal, O'Malley face off on which party's governors have it right

It was a battle of the governors on “Face the Nation” Sunday as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Maryland’s Martin O’Malley faced off about whether Republican or Democratic governors had more success in their states.

“I think if you want to see real conservative principles being applied, you see it at the state level. So you see governors, for example, in Florida and Ohio and South Carolina and Michigan, state after state with Republican governors, you see the unemployment rate going down, you see private sector jobs being created, you see Republican governors taking on public pension reform to tackle long-term debt. You see Republican governors embracing school choice and tenure reforms. You see Republican governors cutting taxes, creating good jobs, balancing our budgets, doing fiscally responsible thing,” said Jindal, a Republican, in response to a question about whether there a disconnect between Americans and the Republicans in Washington.  

Jindal said that disconnect was between Americans and Washington lawmakers of both parties.

Gov. O'Malley: Despite "rocky" start, Obamacare gaining steam
 O’Malley, a Democrat, said the divide is actually between “ideologues that have taken over the once proud party of Abraham Lincoln” and other lawmakers who want to work on issues like raising the debt ceiling and passing an immigration reform bill.

“Shutting our country down does not help job growth. Selling America short does not help us build a better future for our kids, and these are the things that the tea party Republicans have brought to our Congress and made it very difficult for Mr. Boehner even to enact the sort of reasonable compromises that all of us took for granted in years past,” O’Malley said.

But Jindal defended conservatives when asked about Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has been one of the most vocal lawmakers in the Senate since he was elected.

“I think he's passionate. I'm not one that wants to engage in Republican fratricide. I don't think we need to beat each other up. I think it's a good thing that there are tea party and other conservative members active in our party,” he said.

And on immigration, Jindal said that if the president were serious about the issue, he would “start by securing the border.”

“Right now, we've got low walls and a narrow gate. That's the opposite of what we need. We need high walls and a wide gate so that more people can come into this country legally,” Jindal said.

As for one of the most contentious Democratic issues, the Affordable Care Act, O’Malley said he expected perceptions of the program to change once the enrollment period closes at the end of March.

“You will see most states hitting their goals. You'll see our country having extended healthcare to more people.  And all of those that have been scared and frightened that somehow, something's going to happen to their healthcare, will realize that those scare tactics were not true, that those were just falsehoods peddled by the ideological right," O'Malley said.

The National Governors Association (NGA) is holding its annual meeting in Washington this weekend, giving state leaders a chance to highlight their relative success at legislating while Congress is still mired in gridlock.

As for a possible presidential bid, both politicians demurred on what the future holds.

“The honest answer is I don't know,” Jindal said. “We've got 36 governor's races this year; we've got to control the Senate, control the House, we're focused on that.”

O’Malley said he’s “looking at” a presidential bid, “but the most immediate responsibility I have is to govern Maryland well.”

As for how a run by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would affect his decision, O’Malley said, “I think the most important question for any of us who feel that we have something to offer for our country's future is to offer those ideas, and to put those ideas out there, and most importantly, to ask the right questions.  Questions like, 'What will it take to make sure our middle class is growing again so we can grow our economy?'  And that's what I'm going to be doing, and what the other candidates may or may not do is their choice."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.