From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
CHICAGO, Ill. -- The economy was the topic when Obama met with just over half the nation's Democratic governors Friday morning in the city his campaign has made a center of national party politics this election year.
The 16 governors -- there are 28 Democratic governors nationwide -- hail from blue states, red states and swing states. In attendance were Dave Freudenthal (WY), John Baldacci (ME), David Paterson (NY), Joe Manchin, III (WV), Ted Strickland (OH), Kathleen Sebelius (KS), Edward Rendell (PA), Janet Napolitano (AZ), Jim Doyle (WS), Jennifer Granholm (MI), Bill Richardson (NM), Martin O'Malley (MD), Christine Gregoire (WA), Jon Corzine (NJ), Mike Easley (NC) and Ted Kulongoski (OR).
Obama said he brought the group together in part because the unique role of governors requires a focus on solutions rather than partisanship
"I've always been struck by the essential common sense and pragmatism of governors in comparison to some of the stuff that goes on in Washington," he said in talking about his interest in working closely with governors during his campaign and during an Obama administration. "You've gotta solve problems; ultimately the buck stops with you. You've gotta balance your budget. If you've got a badly drafted piece of legislation, you're the ones who have to live with it and as a consequence you end up spending less time posturing and trying to score ideological points and more time trying to govern. We need that same approach in Washington."
In his opening remarks he hit McCain on his gas tax holiday proposal, his plan for tax cuts that benefit the very wealthy and his reversal on offshore oil drilling.
"When I hear John McCain say that he is now in favor of the same oil drilling off the coast that he was opposed to just a week ago," he said. "What he doesn't tell you is that George Bush's own Energy Department has said that this would have no impact on consumers until at 2030m -- 2030 no appreciable impact for the next 22 years, something they're not telling consumers. Imagine what we could do over the next 22 years in investing in completely transforming our transportation infrastructure. That's the kind of approach that I think all of us agree we need to take."
Obama took notes as the governors gave brief opening remarks about their concerns, which included everything from high gas prices to the mortgage crisis and how the issues are affecting workers in their states.
Several of the governors spoke about the need for a policy that can reduce energy costs, to invest in infrastructure and to help people pay for higher education. New Jersey's Corzine talked about the need for a second economic stimulus package Obama has put forward – he has called for a $50 billion stimulus to help working families -- and for the need to change the tax code so that it doesn't benefit mainly the wealthy, while North Carolina's Easley spoke about training the workforce for the high-skilled jobs of the future and Kansas's Sebelius called affordable healthcare and "bottom-line" issue.
Napolitano and Richardson, from the border states of Arizona and New Mexico brought up the issue of immigration and Strickland and Granholm from the economically hard hit states of Michigan and Ohio spoke about job losses.
The group spent the last half of the event delving more deeply into a discussion of infrastructure investments and energy policy.
After the discussion Sebelius said the meeting showed there were "no longer Clinton governors and Obama governors; we're all Obama governors" and that people were engaged in coming together. She estimated about two dozen governors had been present at a private meeting with Obama last night, noting 24 out of 28 was a good showing.
*** UPDATE *** The McCain campaign passes along this response: "Hardworking Americans need leadership they can believe in and trust, but Barack Obama has demonstrated that he's unwilling to keep his word on issues like campaign finance reform and that he refuses to acknowledge the need of offer any solutions for relief for energy prices in the near term. While governors across the nation are talking about ways to increase energy production domestically, Barack Obama is letting ideology get in the way of real solutions."