GOP governors sing a different tune

GOP GOVERNORS SING A DIFFERENT TUNE…. Congressional Republicans have the luxury of debating philosophy. Republican governors, however, are a little more concerned about practical impacts, and they’re not nearly as obstinate when it comes to President Obama’s economic agenda.

President Obama must wish governors could vote in Congress: While just three of the 219 Republican lawmakers backed the $787 billion economic recovery plan that he is signing into law on Tuesday, that trifling total would have been several times greater if support among the 22 Republican state executives counted.

The contrast reflects the two faces of the Republican Party these days.

Leaderless after losing the White House, the party is mostly defined by its Congressional wing, which flaunted its anti-spending ideology in opposing the stimulus package. That militancy drew the mockery of late-night television comics, but the praise of conservative talk-show stars and the party faithful.

In the states, meanwhile, many Republican governors are practicing a pragmatic — their Congressional counterparts would say less-principled — conservatism.

To be fair, it would be an exaggeration to say all Republican governors are on board with the White House’s policies. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), for example, remains an enthusiastic proponent of Neo-Hooverism, insisting that the appropriate response to the economic crisis is severe cuts in governmental spending and more layoffs.

But unlike Congress, there are plenty of Republican governors who don’t mind admitting that they think Obama’s on the right track. Most notably, California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, Florida’s Charlie Crist, Vermont’s Jim Douglas, and Connecticut’s M. Jodi Rell all expressed their support for the Democratic recovery package. These four alone represent a larger GOP contingent supporting the stimulus than the three out of 219 Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Crist told the New York Times, “It really is a matter of perspective. As a governor, the pragmatism that you have to exercise because of the constitutional obligation to balance your budget is a very compelling pull” generally.

Schwarzenegger, Crist, Douglas, and Rell co-signed a letter, along with 14 Democratic governors, endorsing the president’s plan. The Times added, “Other Republicans would have signed on, said a person familiar with the letter’s drafting, but for party pressure in their states.”

It seems pretty obvious that Republicans in Congress don’t much care whether GOP governors like the policy or not. But I still think this is an example of far-right lawmakers being isolated from the policy mainstream, whether that matters to them or not.