ABC's Sunlen Miller reports: Senator Barack Obama held a roundtable with 16 of the nation’s Democratic governors Friday to discuss economic and other concerns in their states, in a setting that was remarkably presidential in its staging.
In Obama's hometown of Chicago, the Democratic nominee sat at the center of a U-shaped table, flanked on either side by the array of governors. Obama's central seat included a podium featuring a circular seal, highly reminiscent of the presidential seal, with a bald eagle and the latin phrase "vero possumus" between its wings.
While many in the press corps scratched their heads about the meaning of the phrase, they accurately guessed that it was latin for the campaign slogan, 'Yes We Can.' Latin scholar Matthew Crozier explains that the precise definition of vero possumus is "In truth we are able."
"Close enough," Crozier concluded.
The Senator seized the moment to praise the governors for their outside the Beltway points of view.
“I’ve always been struck by the essential common sense and pragmatism of governors, in comparison to some of the stuff that goes on Washington,” Obama said as he opened up the meeting, “You’ve got to solve problems, ultimately the buck stops with you, you’ve got to 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 some more time trying to govern.”
Each governor discussed the concerns in their states and praised the presumptive Democratic nominee for reaching out to them and hosting the meeting. The Obama campaign says that all of the nation’s governors – including Republicans - were invited to attend..
Issues of top concern to the governors were energy independence, health care, job loss, and education. Governors Janet Napolitano, of Arizona, and Bill Richardson, of New Mexico, spoke about the need for immigration reform.
Obama defended the states' need to seek federal money and argued that kind of support is not always special interest spending or 'pork' as John McCain has implied, “We’ve fallen into the rhetoric that John McCain often likes to use that every bit of government spending is pork. And you know part of the reason why the public I think accepts often that characterization is because you hear stories about how congress is allocating these dollars based on politics as opposed to some clear criteria of what is needed.”
Obama was in agreement with many of the governors that one way to limit pork spending in a federal budget is to include the input of multiple voices, not only those in Congress: “If we could create a capital budget that is also based on scientists and engineers saying here are the priorities, input from governors, it doesn’t seem to be completely driven by who happens to be the chairman of what committee, then I think it’ a lot easier to make the case, and that would be I think the start of that process.”
Four of the governors present -- Sebelius, Richardson, Ted Strickland of Ohio, and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania – are also names that have been floated as possibilities for Obama’s Vice President. Governors Strickland and Rendell – governors of the key battleground states in the general election - supported Senator Hillary Clinton during the primary campaign. Strickland, on Tuesday, was Shermanesque in saying he would “absolutely” not be Obama’s running mate and has seemingly taken himself out of consideration.