Impressing the governors

IMPRESSING THE GOVERNORS…. What’s that old Woody Allen line? “Ninety percent of life is just showing up”? Reading about Barack Obama’s appearance at the annual meeting of the National Governor’s Association, it seems he scored points for just showing up, but he did even more by knowing what he was talking about.

No one could remember a meeting quite like this.

President-elect Barack Obama met with the nation’s governors Tuesday to hear their tales of economic pain — and won some points by telling Republicans in the room that he welcomed disagreements, “so feel free,” one participant recalled.

In many respects, it seems Obama excelled by connecting with governors the way George W. Bush wouldn’t, or perhaps, couldn’t. As the Politico reported, the governors “were taken with Obama’s openness, policy depth and just that he showed up to engage in a real back-and-forth, a move none could recall on the part of a newly elected president.” It was, in the words of one state chief executive, “unprecedented.”

For Democratic governors, it was a welcome relief after years of meeting with a Republican president they found to be unfamiliar with details.

“The contrast with our meeting with the sitting president was fairly stark,” said Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, recalling a “much more controlled” environment with President George W. Bush.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the incoming head of the DGA, was more blunt: “Just to have an administration, a president, a vice president, who listened, engaged, and came to meeting prepared — it’s a brand new idea.” […]

Obama impressed the governors with his ability to get into the policy weeds on the thorny question, demonstrating a detailed knowledge of FMAPs, the state-by-state formula which determines how much money the federal government sends to help cover Medicaid costs.

The dynamic will no doubt fade in time, but for now, comparisons with his predecessor are going to be extraordinarily helpful to Obama.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.