GOP Governors Call for Party Redirection, New Focus On Less Fortunate

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels called our debt, the "largest non military danger we’ve ever faced."

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Michael Bonfigli /The Christian Science Monitor

President of Purdue University Mitch Daniels

When a reporter asked Mitch Daniels, the former Republican governor of Indiana, what the country is doing to inhibit growth at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast held in Washington on Wednesday, he responded, “What are we doing that isn’t?”

The current president of Purdue University called the national debt an “overriding threat,” which he says will weigh more heavily on the poor, middle class, and young people. But in order to face that threat head-on, Daniels said, lawmakers should set aside their differences and focus on finding middle ground to fix the economy. “I think we should adopt policies specifically in the interests of the yet-to-haves in this country,” said Daniels. “People of very different views ought to come together and say look, we’ve got to call every close one and break every tie in favor of what will allow the private economy to grow faster.”

Daniels statements on behalf of the so-called yet-to-haves, who often include racial minorities, the low-income, the poor, and the elderly, came on the heels of Ohio governor John Kasich’s interview with the New York Times, in which he declared that there is a “war on the poor” in America by his fellow Republicans in Washington. “You know what?” said Kasich, who worked against the state legislature to expand Medicaid in the state. “The very people who complain ought to ask their grandparents if they worked at the W.P.A.”

Finding middle ground and advocating for the poor are themes Republican governors have been pushing in the wake of the growing divide within the party, something the 16-day government shutdown members of the GOP started only seemed to escalate.

Amid the shutdown, the Republican Governor’s Association launched the “American Comeback” campaign to highlight the accomplishments of GOP leaders outside of Washington. Republican Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin decried the failures of leadership and highlighted the efforts they’ve made to solve issues and work together. Over the summer, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed Medicaid expansion into law after the bill passed with the bipartisan support within that state legislature.

As reports, polls, and pundits continue to suggest that division within the Republican Party will break it down, state lawmakers have been working to show that it’s not too late to keep that from happening.

“We are not going to be either an economically successful country…or a frankly societally harmonious country at 1 or 2% growth rates,” Daniels said on Wednesday. “It will destroy something bigger than the middle class. It will destroy the sense of upward mobility or sense of cohesiveness that we’ve always been blessed with.”