The Republican Governors Association spring meeting, like that of the National Republican Senatorial Committee 10 days earlier, brought together a lot of political firepower, fundraising prowess — and some key questions about 2022. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who chairs the NRSC, told the audience that Democratic incumbents were vulnerable in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, chair of the RGA, told me on my radio show that statehouses in Maine, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas and New Mexico are all open to GOP challengers.
The math of 2022, plus history and the extra boost from redistricting, means the House majority should be electing Kevin McCarthy as speaker in January 2023, and control of the Senate could be passing back from New York’s Chuck Schumer to Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell. Ducey is so popular among his colleagues that he was asked to serve a second term as chair of the RGA. Scott, many senators told me during side conversations, is a fund-raising machine bringing a ferocious energy to the task of assembling the resources incumbents and challengers will need. The tens of millions in small donations crucial to modern politics are rolling in, wave after wave.
So, what are they talking about onstage and off, in the meetings and in the hallways of both gatherings? Three things: China, inflation and the massive expansion of the federal government that is underway — the “systemic socialism,” as Scott puts it, that has gripped the Democrats under President Joe Biden.
The keynote speaker for the NRSC was former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, whose hour on stage was driven by questions solely about the Chinese Communist Party. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the first to the bell on the danger of the coronavirus in January 2020 and the first a month later to point to the Wuhan lab as a possible source of the virus, was eagerly sought out by everyone for questions on the same topic.
Cotton, Pompeo and Scott are all presumed to be running for president in 2024, but right now they are running for the party to regain some control over an out-of-control spending spree by Biden (one whose gargantuan outlays include almost no additional spending for national defense against the CCP). In Nashville, where the governors gathered, a stream of confident, competent governors came along with Ducey through my temporary studio: Alaska’s Mike Dunleavy, Georgia’s Brian Kemp, Ohio’s Mike DeWine, Maryland’s Larry Hogan, Montana’s Greg Gianforte and Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt.
Many red state governors are facing significant increases in people and businesses flowing into their states from blue states where citizens have had it with taxes and shuttered schools, overreach during the pandemic, and gridlock on enduring problems such as decaying roads and bridges.
Hogan was particularly focused on the need for two bridge projects across the Potomac to ease the D.C.-area Beltway’s “soul crushing traffic,” as well as improvements to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and continued expansion of Baltimore’s booming harbor. This was real infrastructure, Hogan argued, and the Republican governors have been focused on it for three years. Everywhere there are labor shortages.
Ducey pioneered the back-to-work bonus that has spread among the governors. DeWine took a risk with the vaccine lottery, and it worked. It has appreciably increased vaccination rates in Ohio, and it is spreading, too. “Incentives matter” was everywhere on the lips of GOP state CEOs.
As was inflation, felt in every state. The thief of success is back, and D.C. Democrats seem oblivious to the toll it is already taking. Hogan, for one, isn’t against spending on things such as real infrastructure and its new varieties, such as cyber security for the grid. Ducey, perplexed by Biden’s indifference to the chaos on the border, wants money spent there, with resources returned to the fight against uncontrolled immigration that former president Donald Trump had largely won.
Among the governors, Ducey and Hogan are in the category of “doing everything that needs to be done to run for president if the stars align.” Florida’s Ron DeSantis is in that group as well, course.
What the governors weren’t talking about was 2020. All eyes are on stopping Biden’s lurch to the left. The rise of inflation scares governors who must stretch static state budgets to cover existing services as prices increase for government along with taxpayers. Nobody appealed for more pandemic relief. Many freely confessed to having too much money in their pandemic relief accounts. They’d rather Washington get serious about inflation than throw another few hundred billion dollars of fuel on the inflationary fire already burning.
GOP governors and senators are united in one purpose: checking the Democrats’ hard swing toward their progressive base.