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Republican Governors, Governors-Elect, to Meet in San Diego

NJ Governor Chris Christie (file photo)
NJ Governor Chris Christie (file photo)

More than 30 Republican governors and governors-elect will meet in San Diego, California, Wednesday and Thursday to discuss issues confronting their states. The officials will address economic concerns, and highlight the personalities who are likely to play a role in national politics.

In the November 2 election, Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, the lower house of Congress. They also made dramatic gains in state legislative races, and took governorships from Democrats in a number of key states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.  

But political analyst Tony Quinn says Republican state leaders will be getting down to business, addressing fiscal policy. "Many of their states are now in serious budget problems, that is, they simply don't have enough money to cover all of their costs.  And these people are very unlikely to want to see taxes raised.  Basically, most of them ran against that.  So they're probably going to be discussing ways that budgets can be cut," he said.

Quinn says many Republicans look to New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who will attend the meeting, as an example. He says Christie has cut spending, angering public sector labor unions and exciting conservatives.

Christie has to work with a legislature controlled by Democrats, and Quinn says they resisted cuts to social programs. "But you also have, thanks to this election this year, a number of big states where the Republicans are completely in control - Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio come to mind. There, the Republicans don't have any excuse. They've got to make government work. They can't say, well, the other party was blocking us."

In San Diego, Republican state leaders will hear from some of the new figures on the national scene, including Nikki Haley. governor-elect of South Carolina. Her parents are immigrants from India, and like the Indian American governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, she illustrates the outreach by the Republican Party to immigrant voters.

The governors will also welcome New Mexico's governor-elect, Susana Martinez, the first Hispanic woman to lead a U.S. state.

Political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of the University of Southern California says Republicans will showcase some of this talent as they look ahead to the 2012 presidential election. "It is also a way for the Republican national party to send a message to voters that they heard what voters said in the midterm elections, and these are the politicians who are going to make it happen," he said.

While most Americans know little about governors outside of their own states, some state leaders rise to prominence in national politics. Texas governor George W. Bush, Arkansas governor Bill Clinton, Georgia governor Jimmy Carter and former California governor Ronald Reagan all captured their party's nomination and were elected president.

A spokesman for current Texas governor Rick Perry says Perry expects to be named the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association, replacing Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Both men have been suggested as presidential prospects.  Barbour says he has not decided whether to run, and Perry, who has been promoting his new book that calls for cuts in federal spending, says he is focused doing on his job in Texas.  

Political analyst Jeffe says Republicans are well placed to shape the composition of congress in the coming decade. States play a central role in reshaping congressional districts based on the national census that is taken every 10 years. The redistricting process will start next year, and parties typically try to redraw the political map, based on voting patterns, to benefit their party.

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