Splitting the GOP, One Label-Heavy Front-Page Story at a Time

Today's story marks the second front-page story in six days on the ideological split between the Republican Congress and Republican governors over Obama's "stimulus package."

Reporters Jackie Calmes and Robert Pear poured on the conservative labels in their Monday front-page story from the National Governors Association in Washington, "Disagreements About Stimulus Embroil G.O.P. - Some Support Obama While Others Dig In." It's another instance of the media trying to open a wedge between the GOP Congress and Republican governors over Obama's big spending law.

Monday's story, which featured six "conservative" labels in the first 12 paragraphs, marks the second front-page story by Calmes in six days on the ideologicalsplit between the Republican Congress and Republican governors.

Republican governors split sharply during the weekend over how to respond to the economic crisis, a debate whose outcome will go a long way toward shaping how the national party redefines itself in the wake of its election defeats of recent years.

The divisions were evident at the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association here as the Republicans differed both in their approaches to their own states' budget shortfalls and in their attitudes toward President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package.

Some party leaders said Republicans should compromise with the Democratic president and move to the political center to attract independents' votes. A small but vocal group of conservative governors countered that the party instead must rebuild by standing against new spending and taxes to regain the trust of conservative voters.

"There's a tug of war right now within the party as to where we go next," Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, one of the conservative Republican leaders, said in an interview. "I am in the camp that says we go back to basics. There are other folks who say something a little different. The answer will be determined in this tug of war."


The Republican governors' divide reflects their party's erosion to a mostly regional party that is based in the conservative South, after heavy election losses in the Northeast, Midwest and West. And with the party leaderless after losing control of both the White House and Congress in the past two election cycles, the split is colored by early maneuvering for conservatives' support among potential aspirants for the party's 2012 presidential nomination....After initially saying they might reject any federal aid, several conservative governors said in interviews over the weekend that they were likely to reject only the money for expanded unemployment compensation because of federal strings that could require them to provide relief to part-time workers who lose jobs as well as to full-time workers. Many other states already provide such aid.

Pear and Calmes concluded by letting a Republican governor criticize the party for being too angry:

Among those taking something of a Republican middle ground was Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, another potential 2012 prospect. He emphasized in an interview that the party needs to attract women, Hispanics, younger voters and independents to recover.

"The Republican Party is going to have to adhere to its principles, because they are foundational and they are important. But they need to be presented in a hopeful, optimistic, up-tempo, modern, practical way, and that's not what we have been doing recently," Mr. Pawlenty said.

"We've become too petty and angry in many aspects," he said. "That's unappealing to swing voters."