AUSTIN, Texas – For nearly a decade, the meetings of the Republican Governors' Association were flourishing or even stunned because the party – raised by huge political donations and a reaction against the Obama administration – gained overwhelming control of state governments.
But the feeling of apprehension took hold of the group's rally in Austin last week, as was the case. President Trump's unpopularity and the unexpected losses of Republicans in previous elections. This month in Virginia, New Jersey and the suburbs of Philadelphia in Seattle raised the specter of a political account in 2018.
"I think Virginia was a wake-up call," said Gov. B Mal Haslam of Tennessee, who took over the presidency of the governing body here. "There's a pretty strong message there -low. When Republicans lose white married women, that's a strong message. "
In a series of in camera meetings, governors get tangled up on the best way to avoid being disregarded by Mr. Trump, and discussed the delicate task of directing Trump's political activities away from states where he might not be useful.Many have complained directly to Vice President Mike Pence, urging him to do so. so that the White House intervenes only in the races where its implication is welcome.
A A larger group of governors of the Agricultural states and auto-producer states warned Mr. Pence that Mr. Trump's proposed withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement could seriously harm them.
The Republicans have long anticipated that the cam mid-term loincloth will be difficult. But the beating that they suffered in Virginia, where they lost the governorship by nine percentage points, with at least 15 seats in the suburbs of the state, worried the party's rulers that 2018 might to be worse than we feared . ]
Voters seem eager to punish Mr. Trump.
"Does not matter when the titular chief of the party is under water, obviously there are going to be problems out there. You can not just ignore this, "said New York Governor Chris Sununu, who faces reelection in a state that Mr. Trump lost by less than a percentage point.
The battle for the Congress, already central, will only hold more attention if the rival Roy S. Moore loses a race to Alabama Senate in December, jeopardizing the Republican control of the chamber. But the contests for the governor are perhaps more consequent.
The state races next year will reorganize the country's political map for a decade. the elected governors will have a strong influence on the recast legislative and parliamentary boundaries after the census of 2020.
Several candidates and strategists have declared that the Governors Association had been urgent hires to define themselves early and develop independent personal brands. But it is a more complicated task than during the Obama years, when Republican governors shared an easy model of taunting against a democratic administration and fiscal prodigality at the state level
What Republicans agree on is that their candidates must avoid the contortions of Ed Gillespie, their candidate for the governorship of Virginia, who has embraced Mr. Trump's messages on immigration, crime and Confederate heritage. He supported the president
"You can not be halfway and halfway," said Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi, a conservative. and admirer of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Haslam, a more centrist voice who did not vote for Mr. Trump, agreed. "If you try to wear someone else's clothes, they never match," he said.
But this consensus does not apply Trump in their states.
Gov. Paul LePage of Maine, a fierce supporter of Mr. Trump, said that Republicans should "absolutely" raise with the president in 2018. "He is the leader of our country," said LePage. "He is the leader of our country and we must respect our leader."
Yet even one of Mr. Trump's most enthusiastic cheerleaders refused to Governor Rick Scott of Florida , who is expected to challenge Senator Bill Nelson next year, has repeatedly avoided questions at a press conference to know he thought that Mr Trump would be useful to Republicans during the elections. Mid-term
During a visit to Florida in September, Mr. Trump publicly urged Scott, who describes the president as a personal friend, to oppose Nelson for the Senate seat.
"We'll see what happens in 2018," Scott said, insisting, "I do not know if I'm going to be a candidate. "
Other Republican governors do not bother with rhetorical dance, believing that an invitation to Mr. Trump is a wish for political death. His approval rating is in the 1930s in a band of states that the party will defend next year, and the last thing the rulers in the liberal or even moderate parties of the country want to do, it's to facilitate the links between the democrats. to the president
Gov. Maryland's Larry Hogan, who will face a re-election battle in 2018 in one of the country's most blue states, urged Republican candidates to stand out from the "mess in Washington" and insist on economic problems. near. Until now, Hogan said, Republicans are not running campaigns at the height of the political environment.
"We Must Do More Effective Things"
] asked if he was sure to assume that he would keep Mr. Trump out of Maryland, Mr. Hogan chuckled and said, "It's pretty safe."
After Mr. Pence made public speeches, applause was held by a heavy lobbyist public when he brought greetings from Mr. Trump, he used a private meeting with the governors on Wednesday to tell them that the White House was ready to help their campaigns, according to the Republican officials present in the room. and who spoke under the guise of anonymity to reveal private conversations.
Mr. Hogan and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, the outgoing Chief of the Board of Governors, candidly told Mr. Pence that They hoped that the administration would be cooperative and respect the wishes of the governors who want Mr. Trump to stay out of the way. After Mr. Pence returned to Washington, discussions became more abrupt . At a separate meeting, political strategists briefed governors on Virginia's results, highlighting how deeply Gillespie was overwhelmed by democratic voter turnout , said two participants.
At this session, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, former president of the Governors Association, said that the group should be preparing to raise an unprecedented amount of money. – the figure he spent was $ 130 million – to finance political rescue operations in the crucial last months of the 2018 campaign.
out of reach of the media. More than a dozen governors refused to be interviewed. One of the private sessions was devoted to "Disrupt the traditional media". And in their main public speeches, few Republicans seemed ready to recognize the political environment that seemed to be developing.
Responding to questions from reporters on Wednesday, Walker minimized the significance of recent Republican defeats in New Jersey and Virginia. He described them both as democratic states
Mr. Pence, in his speech and even in his private comments, did not not alluded to the imminent hurdles for Republicans in 2018 or to mention how the administration would respond to the prospect that Mr. Moore, who has been accused of making sexual advances on teens, will win the Senate seat of the Senate. Alabama
In private, however, some governors recognized the rift between their core voters and themselves when it s 39; Mr. Trump acts. Expressing the president's disregard for how Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, the two outgoing senators, caused only hardship for them and their so-called Republican successors in the primaries, where loyalty to Mr. Trump could become a litmus test.
While few directly criticized Mr. Trump, the Republicans of Austin expressed the fear that the party was being defined as a factor of division, even of malice. helped to put forward Republican governors throughout the Obama years
Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican looking for a second term in 2018, said the party had to communicate in a tone "respectful of diversity, respectful of seeking civil solutions". would be a recipe for ruin.
"If we do not give the right tone, we could boost a small percentage of our base, but we still need to have it." independent, "said Hutchinson, who faces a major challenge from the right." We still need those who are not traditional Republicans, who join our coalition. You do not want to distract these voters. "
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