3. Incoming NGA Vice-Chair Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) tells ABC News he is not yet sure what initiative he will unveil a year from now when the NGA convenes in Traverse City, MI, but he is very interested in health care, education, and renewable energy and would expect one of those policy areas to be his focus.
Now to the politics of 2006. We checked in with some governors to get their sense of the political landscape heading into the fall 2006 midterm election season. To write that Republican governors are keenly aware of how tough the current political environment is for their party is to woefully understate it.
"It seems to me there is going to be a very challenging national or congressional environment for Republicans. But voters can distinguish what's going on in Washington and what's going on in there local or state areas and that is certainly true in Minnesota where the majority of people say the country is going on the wrong track, but our state is going on the right track -- so that is a hopeful sign for governors and local officials," Gov. Pawlenty told The Note.
"I think people, as a starting premise, realize that local and state officials aren't running the war in Iraq. We're focused on things like potholes, and getting the schools fixed, and getting our healthcare delivered in our states. And so I think people, particularly in places like Minnesota where there is a high level of voter engagement and knowledge, they're able to separate the Washington mess from what we hope are positive signs and trends at the state level," Pawlenty added.
Gov. Huckabee sounded somewhat less concerned, but, of course, his name won't be appearing on a ballot this year.
"This is a typical situation where people are saying, 'I'm really mad at Congress, I'm really mad at the Republicans, but my guy - he's ok.' I'm seeing that at the level of governor and even at the level of members of Congress. And, so, yes if you ask the generic ballot test question. . . Republicans are certainly not polling at the top of their game. And that's a very charitable way of putting it. . . If you look at poll numbers within the state, you don't see that incumbents are in serious trouble because they're Republican," said Gov. Huckabee.
Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) appears quite optimistic about his party's chances in the current political environment and seems confident that his party will have won control of a majority of governorships by the end of election night. And although Vilsack predicted victories in two of the toughest races for incumbent Democrats, he said the Granholm and Doyle reelection efforts "won't be pretty."
"It's hard when the economy transforms, when the unemployment rate is high, when there are headlines that you can't control, it's not easy to be governor," explained Vilsack. "But Jennifer Granholm has a plan to grow the economy of that state and she's already seen a dividend with Google coming in. Jim Doyle is on the right side of stem cell research which is a critical opportunity for Wisconsin, so they win those two races. It won't be easy, it won't be pretty, but they'll win."
A few other tidbits from Charleston you may have missed while you were focused on Connecticut:
1. Gov. Manchin (D-WV) trotted out his new knees while still using post-knee surgery crutches. (It did nothing to win sympathy from the loud anti-coal protesters following him around to each event.)