Back on the main stage for the latest GOP presidential debate, Gov. Christie tried to command attention Tuesday by continuing to pitch himself as the candidate best prepared to fight terrorism.

In his opening remarks and in answers to questions, the Republican governor repeatedly touted his role as New Jersey's U.S. attorney in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He accused President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of having "betrayed" Americans, whom Christie described as "scared to death."

"I will protect America from the wars that are being brought to our doorstep," Christie said.

But he didn't just train his fire on Democrats. Christie went on the attack against GOP rivals in Congress, asserting they were acting like "bystanders" while complaining about national security.

"If your eyes are glazed over like mine, this is what it is like to be on the floor of the United States Senate," Christie said after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul had gone back and forth over privacy rights and government intelligence gathering.

Criticizing their "endless debates," Christie said that "for seven years, I had to make these decisions after 9/11."

Christie - who has gained support in New Hampshire but has remained in the back of the pack in national polls - also promoted himself Tuesday as a tough talker, affirming a prior promise to shoot down Russian planes if they violated a no-fly zone over Syria.

"Maybe because I'm from New Jersey, I have this plain-language hang-up," Christie said. "Yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots" - if, he said, they were "stupid" enough to believe he was the same "feckless weakling" as currently in the White House.

His remarks drew a rebuke from Paul, who said of Christie, "If you're in favor of World War III, you have your candidate."

Accusing Christie of being reckless, Paul also slipped in a reference to the George Washington Bridge scandal - the only attack on Christie's record during the debate. Criticizing "the judgment of someone who might want World War III, we might think about someone who might shut down a bridge because they don't like their friends," Paul said.

It got no response from Christie. "The reckless people are the folks in the White House right now," he said, criticizing the administration's foreign-policy approach.

Amid the foreign-policy talk, Christie also touched on gender roles. Predicting anxiety after Tuesday's schools shut down in Los Angeles due to an emailed threat, Christie described "the mothers who will take those children tomorrow morning to the bus stop," and "the fathers of Los Angeles, who tomorrow will head off to work and wonder about the safety of their wives and their children."

Later, while defending his opposition to admitting any Syrian refugees, Christie referred to the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif: "Women can commit heinous, heinous acts against humanity just the same as men can do it."

mhanna@phillynews.com 856-779-3232 @maddiehanna