Republican governors and governors-elect charted a conservative course for their party, and their states, in meetings this week in San Diego. The state officials are looking to the 2012 elections, when they hope to see a Republican elected to the White House.
With Republicans now controlling governorships in 29 of the 50 states, the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association was a celebration.
But newly elected South Carolina governor Nikki Haley says that with the sour economy, Americans are worried. "They are scared in a way they've never been scared before. They are looking for hope, but they are no longer looking for false hope. They are looking for real results, they're looking for real fighters, and they're looking for people that understand that they work for the people, and not the other way around," she said.
New faces showcased by Republican state officials include minorities and women. Haley's parents were immigrants from India. She joins another Indian American, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, among the Republican governors. Governors-elect Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico are both Hispanic.
The party is also celebrating sweeps of governorships and legislatures in the key Midwestern states of Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and the eastern state of Pennsylvania.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty says the region will be crucial in the next election "Those are states that are pivotal, swing battleground states in any national election. To have Republican governors in the states is a huge value-add to the party and the conservative movement nationally," he said.
Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich says the big issue in the 2012 election will be the economy, and whether President Barack Obama will have turned it around. "By us doing a good job in running our states, we're going have a big say. If the guy (Mr. Obama) is way out there in left field, raises taxes and punishes investment and all that, I think he's going to get clobbered in the Midwest," he said.
Some are calling for changes in the party's leadership, and several governors say that Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will have to go. The outgoing chair of the Republican governors, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, says despite the wins in 2010, success in 2012 requires the strong leadership that has been lacking. "We have a tremendous opportunity in the Senate. There will be 23 Democratic seats up in the Senate, as well as the entire House of Representatives. So it's absolutely essential that the RNC operate at maximum capacity, which it didn't do this year," he said.
There were repeated calls at the conference for the Republican Party to return to its conservative principles and embrace smaller government, including one appeal from a possible Republican presidential candidate, former congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder says business-friendly government will help a state like his, where one million jobs were lost in the past decade. "Now is the hard work. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and deliver. And that's what I'm really excited to do, because it's time to stop talking and it's time to act," he said.
These state officials say that if Republicans deliver, they may do even better in the next election.