Republican governors at the Conservative Political Action Conference would like the next president to be a Republican governor.
And why not? Over the past two years, Republican national leadership has been portrayed in terms of stasis and infighting. While Congress has been squabbling, Republican governors (who largely benefit from like-minded legislatures) have been making changes in their states.
There's an objective logic to that argument—want Washington to change? We know how to change things!—which Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Chris Christie of New Jersey made at the convention. (True, Bobby Jindal also spoke at the convention, but he focused his speech less on his home state of Louisiana than on ad hominem attacks on the president).
As Perry put it in a speech Friday morning: "It's time for a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas." Translation: The current Republican guard in Washington isn't cutting it. He, like Christie on Thursday, made references to other Republican governors such as Nikki Haley, Rick Scott, Jindal, and Scott Walker as leaders making actionable decisions in their states.
Rick Perry at CPAC
The governors also have easy speech writing here. While senators like Marco Rubio can make arguments against big government, Christie and Perry can prove they have made cuts at home. "The red-state, blue-state debate really matters, because it is about the future of America," Perry said, along with statistics that show blue powerhouses like New York are losing jobs to conservative wonderlands like Texas.
Christie began his speech on Thursday "with a story from New Jersey" about how he combated the public employee pension fund. "We put together a plan to do the things they should be doing here in Washington, D.C., on entitlements." He then went on and explained how he turned a hostile crowd of firefighters over to his reforms.
Perry likewise spoke of Texas's economic growth and the state's recent population boom. It lends credibility to the ending credits of his speech, where he calls for Washington to "get out of the health care business, get out of the education business." His largest applause came when he said the country ought to keep delivering the mail on Saturdays.
"It's not too late for America to lead in the world, but it starts by leading at home," Perry said.
"And what you see in Washington is people who only want to talk. They can't stop talking," Christie said in his Thursday speech.
Taken together, in front of a crowd of conservatives who so deeply dislike the nation's direction, it's not a bad time to be a Republican governor.