For the past several weeks, it seems as though the GOP governors have stolen a lot of the domestic news storylines – dominated mainly by Scott Walker’s historic stand, but also fueled by John Kasich’s leadership and supported by the rock-star like presence of Chris Christie.
As a Republican, these are heady days. Gone are the dark hours of December 2008, when the bench looked bare and the future bleak. Now, with the ranks swelling with fiscal conservatives – leaders who seem to understand the weaknesses in the Bush approach of big-government conservatism – things are looking up.
There has been one personal void, absent, Governor Corbett. Every night for the past several weeks has brought another GOP Governor out to talk about the states’ fiscal issues, Obamacare and its failings, or labor confrontations. Except, it seems, our Governor.
Let me begin by saying that the Governor is not – nor should he aspire to be – Ed Rendell. Fast Eddie LOVED the spotlight and lusted after the media attention. That is decidedly NOT Tom’s modus operandi – and after 8 years a change is good or even healthy.
But the near total invisibility of the Governor – especially when there are so many things in play – struck me as curious. That curiosity rose to alarm this past week when the Governor’s office and the senate campaign committee seemingly could not manage to throw a fundraiser without tripping over each other’s feet.
The debacle that was Larry Megdalia’s fundraiser shows how tense this administration is in advance of today’s budget address. It is not, as many of the stories made it sound, unusual to exclude the media from a fundraiser. By their nature, these are highly partisan affairs and often times remarks are “spiced up” in a way that make such remarks more “private” in nature, even though they are public utterances.
The mistake was not letting the media know in advance that they would not be welcome to come in – on the contrary, they were invited. As one expert suggested to me, this could have been avoided simply by doing “a standup in front of the event for 5 minutes, take a few questions, and then head inside media free.” These actions – or anything that did not look like an episode of the Keystone Cops – would have kept the story on the substance, not the process.
But they did not do that, and when faced with a media presence they wanted to avoid they made themselves look like amateurs. And the reason is obvious: the Governor’s team is bound up tighter than a fat man’s belt about today’s budget address. Over the next few weeks, there will be lots of time to analyze what is actually in the budget but even before we see it (and rumors abound), it is clear that the Corbett Administration is putting all of its eggs in this basket.
By all accounts, this is “THE thing” that has consumed all of Tom’s staff and cabinet departments. Reports are that the Governor and his team have studiously avoided getting into the fray on all of these tempting fronts (like Ed I would probably be running to spout off at every chance) BECAUSE they planned on the budget being their “coming out party” as a leadership team.
Which makes today an especially crucial one for this administration. By making the budget the central leadership vehicle of the Administration, the Corbett team has put enormous pressure on how they “sell” this budget. Because, unless they found gold buried under the Front Street mansion, this budget will be long on pain and short on cheap political victories.
Today is the first critical day in the Corbett administration. Today is the first time we get a look at the fine print behind the broad rhetoric sweeps about fiscal restraint and deep budget cuts.
Today, essentially, starts the Corbett administration. They put a lot of chips on the table this way – let’s hope the Governor is holding a winning hand – for all of our sakes.
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