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GOP Rising Tide ’09: It Came From the States

I have written before of the paramount importance of governors in providing leadership to the Republican Party and to our country. One my joys this year has been to work closely with Governors Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty in my role as Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association Executive Roundtable.

My view is that we are poised to win the two gubernatorial races this year with Bob McDonnell capturing Virginia and Chris Christie becoming governor of New Jersey.  Yes, there is a lot of time between now and Election Day, but I feel good about both of these key races.  Just as in 1993, with victories for George Allen and Christie Todd Whitman in these states, this will mark a turning point for the Republicans’ march back to a majority center-right party.

Keep in mind, the quality of candidates really matters, and over 50% of newly elected members of Congress and the Senate in 1994 made the decision to run after being emboldened by the Allen and Whitman wins.

Four days during early August reaffirmed my conviction that the revival of the Republican Party will be led by our governors and gubernatorial candidates. In this post, I will address the first of two separate events.

On August 3 and 4, Governors Barbour, Pawlenty, and Rick Perry along with a strong group of Roundtable members attended the annual Aspen Institute conference.  It was an invigorating two days, and we were all particularly impressed by the forward-looking, problem-solving approach of the governors.  We started with Haley speaking on energy to a bipartisan audience at the Aspen Institute.  He was strong, articulate, balanced, and his speech was well-received.  That evening, we had a buffet reception at our home, highlighted by insightful remarks from Tim Pawlenty.

The next day we had panel discussions with Haley and former governor and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt leading health care and Gov. Perry leading the discussion on reviewing our economy and creating jobs. Rick also spoke that night at a dinner hosted by Roundtable members Rick and Erica Horvitz, who hosted a wonderful Western dinner at their beautiful Wildcat Ranch.

It was an opportunity to review how far we have come this cycle. As an organization, we have recruited over 225 top executives, entrepreneurs, and other people of great merit who contribute $25,000 per year to the RGA and attend a series of policy oriented sessions with our governors.  This means that over the two year election cycle leading to 2010, the RGA has another $11million to pump into key races, and it is growing.

This entire event reminded me why I love politics.  No, it didn’t have the grassroots spontaneity of the incredibly impactful Tea Party movement, but  it was a committed group of people enjoying in deeply substantive discussions of the key problems facing our country, enjoying a camaraderie in a setting of environmental beauty, and getting to know our political leaders in an up close and personal way.

In my next post, I’ll talk about our Candidate Forum the following weekend.

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