National Governors' Association Meets

Palin Says "Come to ANWR"

Philadelphia, Penn.–With John McCain still adamant in his opposition to oil exploration in the Arctic Natural Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), the governor of Alaska yesterday called on the soon-to-be Republican nominee for President to come to her state and see for himself the proposed site for drilling.
"I’m asking him to come up and see ANWR," Republican Gov. Sarah Pallin told me Saturday during the centennial meeting of the National Governors Association here. 
As to her discussions so far with McCain, Palliln said "We agreed to disagree."  But, she quickly added, "I am encourged with his evolved thinking on offshore drilling and I think he might come along on ANWR if he sees our 2000 acres for himself."
New England Govs. On ANWR
Philadelphia, Penn.–Historically, New England Republican governors have been more inclined toward conservation than new development.
But with gasoline prices now hitting $5 per gallon in many places throughout New England, this attitude may be changing.  When I spoke to them during the NGA meeting, the governors of Rhode Island and Vermont certainly signaled that–at least where ANWR is concerned.

"It’s the important thing to do and the right thing to do," Republican Gov. Donald Canceri said of ANWR exploration.  "We’ve go to do everything we can to deal with the prices of gas."
As to whether he has encountered strong opponents of ANWR among voters at home, Canceri told me: "Sure.  But they also realized that it’s the right thing to do and the important thing to do."  He  noted that when a crunch in electricity in Rhode Island caused a 21% increase in electrical rates, "people are really feeling it [the energy crunch]."
Vermont’s Republican Gov. James Douglas was not as emphatic in calling for ANWR drilling as Canceri was, but he certainly left the door open to supporting it.
"Vermonters are traditionally strong stewards of the environment," Douglas told me.  He pointed out that, in his state, there is a strong movement toward perfecting alternative sources of energy such as biomass and converting manure into energy. 
"I have resisted ANWR so far," he said, "but with gas prices so high, I do believe we should put everything on the table."

Meetings Kickoff with Fanfare

Philadelphia, Penn.–As the storied Mummer’s Band of Philadelphia piped in present and past governors, business and community leaders and reporters like me, the steps of the historic Museum of Art began to quickly fill up.  The opening of the centennial meeting of the National Governors Association was, to say the least, spectacular.  About thirty current governors and forty former governors–among them Bill Clinton, governor of Arkansas for a dozen years before becoming President–are attending the big event.

For not-so-young political reporters such as me, the reception at the Museum of Art was an opportunity to spot figures I reported on years ago who are now apart of history.  John Sununu, Republican governor of New Hampshire from 1982-88 and White House chief of staff under George H.W. Bush, was there, as was Michael Dukakis, onetime governor of Massachusetts and 1988 Democratic nominee for President, along with wife Kitty.  Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate this year but still on the list of possible runningmates for Barack Obama, was busily working the growing crowd at the Museum.  When I asked Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina,an oft-mentioned prospect for the McCain ticket, if he had been approached yet about running with the Arizona, he replied: "Are you kidding me?"

But the stars of the evening were the outgoing and incoming chairmen of the NGA, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania respectively.  Along with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, they briefly addressed the guests at the Museum and took questions from reporters.  Among the interesting points touch on by the two governors were . . . .

Rendell Ruminates on Runningmates (For Both Parties)

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell feels it is "more important that [fellow Democrat] Barack Obama pick someone with a foreign policy background than a governor" as his vice presidential runningmate, while Republican John McCain might be wise to select a governor with a background in economic issues.  Although he conceded the obvious – that McCain was unlikely to call him for advice – Democrat Rendell said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would be the best choice for McCain to run with.

As for his choices for the best running mate Obama could have, Rendell mentioned a heretofore unmentioned first choice:  former Senate Democratic Leader George Mitchell of Maine.  A onetime federal judge, Mitchell has been out of politics save for special assignments (such as negotiating the Good Friday accord in Northern Ireland) since retiring from the Senate in 1994.  Others cited by the Pennsylvanian were Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (Del.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a onetime UN ambassador.

When I asked if retired Gen. Wesley Clark, Rendell shot back:  "Probably  not Wesley Clark"– possibly because of Clark’s recent gaffe questioning McCain’s military service as a qualification to be President.

For his part, Republican Pawlenty avoided reporters’ question about the speculation of his running with McCain, saying he was simply a "surrogate spokesperson" for the certain GOP nominee.

"[The NGA] is a bipartisan organization," Pawlenty said, "and we don’t take positions in the presidential race."  He added that there would be "no presidential politicking" during the four-day conference.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Possible Federal Takeovers
Likely to Be Addressed by Govs

Amid press speculation that two giant government-sponsored mortgage companies were in precarious financial health and could fall into a government-run bailout and conservatorship, Govs. Pawlenty and Rendell both said they anticpated discussion of a takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be on the NGA agenda this weekend.

"This is a breaking news story,"  Pawlenty told me last night, saying he anticipated that discussion of the condition of the mortgage companies would probably be taken up by the governors tomorrow.  "The housing issue in general" was going to be addressed by the NGA, Pawlenty added.

As to the talk in the press of a bailout and conservatorship of the mortgage companies, Pawlenty said: "I’m not sure it rises to that level."

Incoming NGA Chairman Rendell  agreed that the condition of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be on the governors’ agenda.

The Ventura Gambit

Riding back from the NGA welcoming event with my colleague from the Minneapolis Star Tribune and then talking to Minnesota’s Gov. Pawlenty there, it was inevitable I would hear some "Ventura talk"–that is, more speculation about whether former Reform Party Gov. Jesse Ventura would make good on his recent hints about running for the Senate in Minnesota this year against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken.

"It’s hard to speculate on what he’ll do or he won’t do,"  Pawlenty told me, referring to his predecessor.  Onetime professional wrestler Ventura made international headlines in 1998 when he won the governorship on the Reform Party ticket over Republican Coleman and Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey, III.  After one term, Ventura did not run again and has since spent considerable time outside the Gopher State on the lecture circuit.  His name recently resurfaced last week when ABC-TV political reporter Jake Tapper reported that Ventura was considering a political comeback by running for U.S. Senator.

One Minnesota politican who knows Ventura well and requested anonymity ("I have a good relationship with Jesse and don’t need him mad at me") told me that the odds were "probably 75% to 25% against his running."  The same Minnesotan pointed out that "Jesse did not take criticism from the press well and going back into politics would start that antagonism all over again.  I believe he started this talk about running for the Senate to hype his new book (Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me)."  

The filing deadline in Minnesota is Tuesday, July 15–Ventura’s birthday.