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Governors Play It Both Ways — Bipartisan Except When They’re Not

McClatchy Tribune News Service Politics

Governors Play It Both Ways — Bipartisan Except When They’re Not


WASHINGTON — Governors are displaying split personalities as they launch their 2014 election campaigns: Bash the other party as divisive and wrong about the big issues, but also calmly vow to solve the day’s biggest problems as they work diligently with others.

That dual focus — feisty partisans and thoughtful policymakers — was evident all weekend at the National Governors Association winter meeting.

After a dinner at the White House Sunday evening, the governors plan to meet Monday morning with President Barack Obama and members of his Cabinet. Problem-solving, rather than politics, is expected to dominate the agenda.

This less flashy aspect of this four-day conference, which ends Friday, has been apparent during forums on everyday problems confronting governors. The discussions have been civil, the disagreements polite.

One area of agreement involved avoiding expected National Guard cuts.

“We need to keep the guard and not cut the guard. This is something the governors are united on and something that’s important,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican.

Differences were most obvious on health care. No issue so clearly divides Democrats, who enthusiastically support the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans, who generally want it repealed and replaced.

Disagreements, though, were expressed gently. “They didn’t come to the states, they didn’t come to the governors” when the act was being considered in 2009 and 2010, complained Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, countered that the act was carefully crafted and will eventually be popular.

“What I tell your grandmother, her Medicare works pretty well,” he said. Though controversial when it was created in 1965, he said, it’s now widely accepted.

But the talk often turned to common ground. “Regardless of how you feel about the policy,” said North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, Washington is providing “absolutely no flexibility to the 50 states’ unique needs,” he said.

Much of the discussion was about sharing ideas. “We look at health care in Mississippi as an economic driver,” said Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican. He talked about “health care zones” where health-care related businesses create jobs in certain areas and receive state incentives.

At another forum, Nixon set a serious tone as governors discussed disaster response.

“It is often important for us to learn lessons from each other,” he said. They then heard from Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, who methodically described strategy and readiness.

“We’re concerned about the worst night in America,” he said, a catastrophe like a major earthquake. He outlined an elaborate plan to be ready for such catastrophes.


  1. daniel bostdorf February 23, 2014

    Well— the article clearly states why the Governors are playing both ways:

    “In the halls, at news conferences and on television shows, though, the tone was different. Thirty-six governors’ seats are up for election this year — 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats — and the rhetoric got heated…..here’s more of this to come this year, said James Hodges, a Democrat and former South Carolina governor. “Eighty percent of being a governor involves not being partisan,” he said. “But we have a polarized electorate, and the two sides are farther apart than ever on the biggest issues.”

    Polarization. Politicians with their “fingers in the air” trying to gauge public opinion rather than doing the right thing for the American people collectively and those citiznes in their state…

    These are the UNITED States of America….not the DIVIDED States of America..

    And having it both ways is not governing.

    And the pathetic Governor of Maine, LePage, left before the President addressed the Governors.

    Disrespect….the underpinning of the polarization of politics.

    1. Independent1 February 23, 2014

      Daniel, why am I not surprised about LePage? He’s without question the possibly the most socially repulsive person ever to serve as the governor of any state in America.

  2. 4sanity4all February 23, 2014

    Pat McCrory from North Carolina is being disingenuous when he says there is no flexibility in the ACA for the various state’s needs. He should talk to Kentucky’s Governor, who managed to greatly upgrade healthcare for his constituents. The few Republican Governors who embraced the ACA are doing a solid favor for their residents. I hope that the Governors who obstructed the expansion of Medicaid, and those that obstructed getting correct information about the ACA to their citizens will be punished at the ballot box. If you look at the job creation figures in Republican states, for example Wisconsin, you will see that their union busting, worker crushing, tenure abolishing policies have eliminated good jobs and hurt their economy. Democrats in those states had better vote in record numbers, to overcome the gerrymandering that gave them this double talking, dishonest leadership. And I hope that people are smarter than the dark money political ads give them credit for. Those ads target single, hot button issues, and crowd out debate about issues that really matter. What good does it do you to have unfettered access to all the guns you want if your incompetent leaders have driven jobs out of your state and ruined your once robust education system? People have been dancing to the guns and abortion tune while the infrastructure has rotted, jobs have been lost, and schools have too few resources to succeed.


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