Obama's Outreach to GOP Govs has Its Limits

By: Beth Fouhy
By: Beth Fouhy
President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama is introduced by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist at a town hall style meeting about the economy, Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009, at Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

NEW YORK (AP) -- President Barack Obama's outreach to Republican governors has its limits.

Obama's appearance in Florida with Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday was carefully orchestrated to showcase the Democratic president's efforts at bipartisanship in building support for his economic recovery plan.

But the president extended no such olive branch on Monday to Indiana's GOP governor, Mitch Daniels, who has been somewhat more skeptical of Obama's plan to jolt the economy with more than $800 billion in spending and tax cuts.

Jane Jankowski, a spokeswoman for Daniels, said the governor was not invited to attend Obama's town-hall meeting in Elkhart, an economically troubled city in northern Indiana. Layoffs in Elkhart's recreational vehicle industry have sent unemployment above 15 percent from just over 4 percent a year ago.

"We received a notification on Friday that the president was coming to Elkhart, about the same time as the media was notified. That's the only contact that we had from the White House," Jankowski said.

Daniels, a conservative who has been mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2012, has said he would accept whatever funds Indiana is due to receive from the stimulus plan. But he also has insisted that Indiana is "fiscally steady" and has criticized other lawmakers' rush for the federal government's largesse.

"I have great misgivings ... but I hope that it's going to work," Daniels has said.

Indiana has a $767.4 million budget gap to close this year, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Obama invited Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar to the Elkhart event, but Lugar declined. On Tuesday, Lugar was one of 37 Republican senators to vote against the stimulus plan, as did Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez.

Obama shared the stage with Crist, who campaigned for Republican presidential nominee John McCain last year and is considered a potential 2012 White House candidate. Crist has lobbied for the federal stimulus plan and was one of four Republican governors who joined 15 Democrats in signing a letter of support for the proposal last week.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Crist said he saw no contradiction between his support for Obama's recovery plan and his efforts for McCain last year.

"He's the president of my country and he's coming to our state and he's trying to put together a plan that will help our state an awful lot, so I think it makes perfect sense," Crist said.

Obama returned the compliment on stage with Crist in Fort Myers, where the unemployment rate was 10 percent in December.

"Governors understand our economic crisis as well as anyone; they're on the front lines dealing with it every day," Obama said. "When the town is burning, we don't check party labels. Everyone needs to grab a hose."

Obama won both Florida and Indiana in the general election in November. While Florida has long been a presidential swing state, Indiana had not voted for a Democratic nominee since 1964.

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