Palin Shares The Stage With Her GOP Peers

By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2008

MIAMI, Oct. 13 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's star-turn news conference here at the Republican Governors Association meeting quickly got very crowded, as 12 of her colleagues joined her onstage.

It sent an unmistakable message: that if the nation's GOP governors are going to take the lead in their dispirited party, there is going to be more than one voice at the head of the pack.

Palin seemed unperturbed about sharing the wealth, although what had been billed as roughly 20 minutes of questions for the 2008 vice presidential nominee dwindled to four queries, each of which she answered with a version of expressing her happiness to simply be a team player.

"The media likes to focus on us as individuals, but the Republican Governors Association is a group," Palin said. "I'm proud to be a part of this team."

It's a team with an abundance of people volunteering to serve as captain, particularly with no clear front-runner to become the GOP's presidential nominee in 2012.

Palin is the hands-down celebrity in the group, but there are plenty of other governors -- Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, South Carolina's Mark Sanford and Florida's Charlie Crist, to name a few -- who also see a road for themselves to the White House.

The results of last week's elections mean that for the first time in 14 years, Republicans will not control either the White House or Congress. Those gathered here, at least, believe that the path out of what one described as the "wilderness" will be forged by governors.

"I really feel there's a yearning for the Republican leadership you see on this stage," said the association's chairman, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "The kind of leadership provided by Republican governors, not necessarily what's been displayed in Washington, D.C."

He bluntly criticized the party led by a fellow Republican from Texas.

"Americans have lost confidence in their national Republican leaders after years of pork-barrel spending and special interests calling the shots in D.C., massive government bailouts," he said. "The election results at the federal level were no surprise to those of us at the state level. The Washington values displayed by our national leaders simply don't reflect the values of the Republican Party."

Perry was effusive in praising Palin and her "unashamed embrace of bedrock conservative principles." But the governors also seemed leery of establishing Palin at the center of their efforts.

According to network exit polls, 60 percent of last week's voters thought Palin lacked the qualifications to become president, while 38 percent said she was qualified. And while she is enormously popular with conservative Republicans, the Washington Post-ABC News poll showed her favorable rating among all voters falling from a high of 59 percent the weekend after the GOP convention to 46 percent just before Election Day -- with an unfavorable rating of 51 percent then.

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