Sarah Palin called on fellow Republican governors to keep the new president and his strengthened Democratic majority in check on issues from taxes to health care as she signaled she'll take a leadership role in a party searching for a new standard-bearer.
Addressing the Republican Governors Association meeting Thursday, this year's GOP vice presidential nominee — and an oft-mentioned candidate for 2012 — revisited some aspects of the bitter campaign and talked about the role of the governors in the coming year. After losing the White House and several seats in the Senate and House, the party is engaging in some soul-searching about its direction.
"We are the minority party," Palin said at a session on "Looking Towards the Future: The GOP in Transition." "Let us resolve not to be the negative party."
Palin never mentioned the name of President-elect Barack Obama, but she took a swipe or two at the Democrat. She said with governors, "the buck stops on our desk. ... We are not the many voting yea or nay or present." While an Illinois state lawmaker, Obama often voted "present," a practice the GOP criticized during the campaign.
'Show them the way'
Palin noted that Congress is led by the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Barney Frank, and said it was incumbent upon GOP governors to ensure that the federal government doesn't take over the health care system. She said if Obama and the new Congress "err on the side of excess taxes, we have to show them the way."
Facing the prospect of being out of power at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for the first time since 1992, Republicans are looking to their governors to fill the leadership vacuum. Speculation has centered on the telegenic Palin despite her tumultuous two months on the national political scene. She likely would have competition for a possible 2012 bid from Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — all in attendance at the three-day meeting.
Focus on 2010
On Wednesday, Barbour told his peers that now isn't the time to think about the next presidential election.
"Anybody here tonight that has thought about the 2012 presidential election needs to keep their eye on the ball," Barbour, a former Republican Party chairman, told a reception for the governors and their supporters. "We don't need to talk about 2012."
In a series of national television interviews, Palin did not rule out seeking the presidency, saying, "It's crazy to close a door before you know what's even open in front of you."
Asked about the 2012 talk at a news conference Thursday morning, Palin said, "I, like all of our governors, we're focused on the future. The future for us is not the 2012 presidential race. It's next year and our next budget, and the next reforms in our states and in 2010 we're going to have 36 governors' positions open across the U.S. That's what we're focused on."