Congressional Republicans loop GOP governors into strategy meeting

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December 1, 2010

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

WASHINGTON, DC: Ohioan John Boehner, the permanently tanned presumptive Speaker of the House, met with 15 fellow Republicans, all newly elected governors, earlier today in what was described as an "Ideas Summit."[1]

On the agenda were issues of leveraging the GOP's historic gains. The party takes control of the House of Representatives in January and holds two-thirds of America's governors' offices. Rep. Boehner, along with other top House Republicans, is hoping to boost his party's state-level game plan to take on the policies of the troubled Obama Administration.

Boehner, along with rising star Eric Cantor of Virginia and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is keen to leverage state level distaste for Barack Obama's healthcare law, which has already seen upward of 20 state Attorneys General file suit.

The meeting could well lead to broader and more longer-term coordination on policy as well as on political strategy and communication between state executives and members of Congress. It is also likely a bid to boost the visibility of new faces with potential for national office and to address the thin ranks of top leadership in a party plagued by having no clear national figurehead.

Democrats immediately pointed to instances in Boehner's Congressional tenure when legislation he supported translated into slashed funding and compliance costs for states as proof that today's move is a cynical about-face in political gaming. Unspoken is the fact that many in-coming governors campaigned on Congress' unpopularity and have made a point of assuring voters they will stand up to the nation's capitol if lawmakers continue to shy away from serious action to reduce the deficit.

Nevertheless, Boehner has hit upon a shrewd way to balance the Beltway, where Republicans may hold an imminent political majority but are still dwarfed in terms of party registration numbers, with the decidedly more GOP friendly current national landscape. In his office's statement announcing the meeting, Boehner characterized the emerging coalition as a bid for decentralizing government: "“Washington doesn’t have all the answers, and the best solutions usually come from outside the Beltway,” he wrote in a November 29th announcement.[2]

Confirmed attendees included:

Robert Bentley, Alabama
Rick Scott, Florida
Terry E. Branstad, Iowa
Sam Brownback, Kansas
Paul LePage, Maine

Rick Snyder, Michigan
Brian Sandoval, Nevada
Susana Martinez, New Mexico
John Kasich, Ohio
Mary Fallin, Oklahoma

Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania
Nikki Haley, South Carolina
Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota
Bill Haslam, Tennessee
Matt Mead, Wyoming

All are newly elected, and ten represent a governorship captured from Democrats. With the exception of Iowa's Terry Branstad, who has governed the state before, all are new to their position. Fallin and Daugaard, however, have had lieutenant gubernatorial experience.

While most analysts agree the midterm results were far more a repudiation of Obama's policies than a mandate for Republicans, the latter will be enjoying a great deal of power in the next two years and thus have an opportunity to respond the right way to voter anger and thus set themselves up for 2012.

In addition to defending their House majority that year, Republicans will have a shot at both the Senate and the Presidency. On the state level, nine governorships representing 63 electoral votes will be up. Democrats currently hold six of those seats, and the GOP is sure to assess its success in 2010 when trying to replicate the feat and win over a few more seats.