COLUMNS

Governors Party at The White House

  • Capital Connections ®
  • |
  • February 27, 2007

by Karen Feld

capconn
Virginians rejoice! Governor Tim Kaine has promised to serve out his full four-year term. When I ran into him Sunday evening at President Bush’s annual dinner for the nation’s governors at The White House, I pressed him as to why he felt the need to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination so early in the election cycle. After all, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, Obama’s home state, is so far the only other governor to do so. Most savvy politicians sit back and wait rather than make such an aggressive move a year before the primary. It’s significant because Kaine, respected among Southern Governors – the south is an important voter block –supported a mid-westerner over a fellow southerner, former Sen. John Edwards (N.C).

Did he make a deal? Is a cabinet position in the future for Kaine, who in Virginia is limited to a single term? Kaine says no. “If Obama wins, I’ll still be governor for another year and I promise — hear that – ‘promise’ to stay in the governor’s office ‘til the last day.”

“I have a good personal relationship with Barack. He’s a transformational figure,” said Kaine. “I do things when my gut tells me.”

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic party said, “it’s much too early” to endorse a candidate in the primary, “but keep your eye on Gov. [Bill] Richardson.”

Richardson, just grinned, but wouldn’t comment.

Meanwhile, with overly orange-dyed hair, Arnold Schwarzenegger –walking on a drug store stick with the price tag in plain view — opted to attend the White House dinner and the National Governors Association in Washington over the “green” Oscars, Sunday evening. With Maria at his side draped in a purple shawl, the Terminator said: “I have a great White House dinner and then go home and see the Academy Awards. That’s technology –TiVo.” He was rooting for Clint Eastwood and Al Gore.

Technology was a prime focus of the governors. Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter was impressed with hearing “lots of new stuff” in the way of innovation, but  said “I don’t remember” when pressed for specifics. “It’s in my notes,” he replied, and quickly changed the subject, “Do you know how to spell “potato?” “It’s spelled s-p-u-d in Idaho.”

When asked about his predecessor, Mitt Romney, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said, “We have different views of governing but I respect anyone ready to step out for public life.” He continued, “I hope America is ready to look beyond differences –whether race or religion– and they were when it came to electing me governor.”

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine’s companion, New York psychotherapist Sharon Elghanayan, 62, hobbling on crutches explained she had a kick-boxing accident. . . Florida Governor Charlie Crist said he asked the president about Everglades funding . . . Colorado Governor Bill Ritter’s wife, Jeannie, was proud to be wearing her red velvet inaugural gown now symbolizing Healthy Heart as well. . . Homeland Security honcho Michael Chertoff looked younger and less ominous without his mustache.

Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, the singing voice of the New York Yankees wearing a silk American flag pocket handkerchief, entertained the governors after they feasted on Maine lobster and Colorado lamb. He performed “Right On,” “Hallelujah,” “Grace,” and “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears.” Tynan said he’s gotten close to the Bush family – he sang at President G. W. Bush’s Inauguration and his parents’ 60th wedding anniversary as well as President Bush 41’s 80th birthday bash. He talked about the workshops in which he’s participated on behalf of Barbara Bush’s literacy campaign. When asked if he was a “first houseguest,” the tenor quipped in his Irish brogue: “I’m close but not that close.”

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