With the Republican governors and their Democratic counterparts in Washington for their annual meetings, the GOP is benefiting from a bevy of camera-ready, energetic national spokespeople to help carry the fight to the White House on sequestration.
Governors such as Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Nikki Haley can draw the kinds of microphones, cameras, laptops, and tweets that the party’s Capitol Hill leaders do not always attract these days.
That means Republicans are getting additional ballast behind their side of the argument at a time of intense and high-profile partisan conflict. The opposition governors are making the same basic case that their congressional allies have pushed: Obama is too political; Obama is no longer hiding his desire to raise taxes at every turn; Obama isn’t serious about spending cuts; Obama is engaging in scare tactics.
Republicans are asserting that the sequester’s pattern of cuts are undesirable but better than nothing — and it seems to the governors that the level of cuts required by current law should be achievable by restraining spending in other areas.
“I could not be more frustrated than I am right now,” Haley told a group of reporters across the street from the White House on Monday afternoon at a press conference just after the National Governors Association members met with President Obama. While she trained her invective on Washington writ large, she suggested that the President was showing a lack of leadership by, among other things, taking an out of town golf vacation in recent days, rather than focusing on trying to negotiate a solution. To be sure, there is some expression of frustration by the governors at their congressional colleagues, but their main focus of criticism is Obama.
The White House is now in the midst of a campaign to alarm voters about the real-world impact if the sequester cuts happen, including releasing late Sunday a series of state-specific documents showing where the slashed spending would hit. Walker took a shot at the administration by indicating that the White House effort was clearly more about public relations than anything else, since the reports were sent to the media before they were sent to the governors.
Democratic governors are backing up their side as best they can, but as of now, Republicans are getting an extra boost thanks to the star power of their state chief executives who, while in town, are joining to pull their side’s half of the sequester tug of war rope.