Monitor Breakfast: Governors Rowland and Owens

Selected quotations from a Monitor Breakfast with Governors John Rowland (R-CT) and Bill Owens (R-CO).

On the political impact of the war

Rowland: "I think it is an incumbent advantage. ... I think it translates to Democrat incumbents and Republican incumbents ...because they (voters) have more of a comfort zone, they have more of an inclination to vote for their sitting congressman, their sitting senator, their sitting governor their sitting mayor. The translation to the president's popularity is very evident. I think it is bipartisan, unfortunately."

On whether President Bush has coat tails

Rowland: "I am not a great believer in coat tails. I don't believe in transfer of popularity. (We) have an historic problem we always face in these midterms. I am hoping history will not repeat itself. We have a lot at stake. ...As (former House Speaker) Tip O'Neill says, all politics is pretty local. I don't think it is going to have an impact, good or bad."

On Enron's political impact

Rowland: "I don't think the Enron debacle is a) partisan, or b) shakes the confidence of the American people. ...I think the average guy in the street sees the Enron mess and says 'oops another corrupt corporation.' We will fix it later. I don't think people connect all the dots. I don't think they say this has happened because of campaign contributions and then this took place. ... We have a tendency in this city to beat everything to death. The American people I think will turn off to this issue in about 10 days because they have other things to worry about in their lives. And if it doesn't affect them, they are not concerned."

On the mood of the public

Rowland: "For the last 20 years government has been the necessary evil. It has been the thing that takes our money and doesn't renew our drivers licenses very well and all the other problems and cynicism we have built in. What is kind of interesting is that now the American people are looking to government for resolution, solution, safety, certainty - whether it is getting the terrorists in Afghanistan, whether it is providing economic security, whether it is making sure my airports are safe. So almost overnight the American people have woken up and said 'hey, I want my government to take are of all these issues for me now.' So the role of government and specifically governors and presidents has changed. The perception of us has changed dramatically. After 9-11 every time I have given a speech, whether it was the local chamber of commerce or the Kiwanis club, I felt people were holding on tight. My audiences wanted a sign that everything was gong to be OK. And I am talking about sophisticated business people or 3rd graders. Literally the transformation of how the American people looking to government for direction, for guidance, and for leadership I think is probably at a higher level than we have ever seen in our life times.

On how hard it will be to retain Republicans-held state houses

Rowland: "So my focus frankly is to make sure we have a strong foundation - I don't care if we have 25, 26, 23 - that number isn't important to me. But having good competitive races, good candidates, and building a strong foundation because all of us agree that governors - Republican or Democrat - have pretty good political operations which are very effective in national campaigns. (Question: are you softening us up for loss of seats?) My official line is that if we hold onto the majority of governor seats, I will be as happy as a clam at high tide. Yes I am softening you up." Owens: "(In a) lot of ways it is like the NFL. When you win the Super Bowl, next year your schedule gets tougher and you loose your top draft choice. You get the worst draft choice. In terms of the states we are holding, and the job to be done in terms of winning, we are now holding a whole lot of states. And our friends in the other party have the ability to pick and choose and go after us in some states where 4-8-12 years ago we had some outstanding candidates and where the political situation may have changed over the years. So we are holding a lot of territory right now and we plan to do everything we can to continue to hold it. But I would ascribe to John's view that in fact ... this will be a tough cycle for us. We have twice as many of our guys up compared to the other party."

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