Whitmer tries to court the GOP
Did you see it?
Probably not, because most common folks are watching “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” from 7 to 8 p.m. and, so, when governors use that time slot for their annual message to the residents through the State of the State, they pretty much know it’s not going to get high ratings.
Yet they dutifully spend literally months piecing together a speech to lay the foundation for their new year legislative agenda, and every governor knows he or she will have at least one captive audience.
It’s mandatory that lawmakers attend, and all of them do, because they get to bring along friends from the outside world to sit with them on the state House floor to see what the boss has to say.
The governor also warrants the full attention of the state Capitol press corps, which is forced to listen without the ability to interrupt to ask a pointed — perhaps even unwanted — question about what the governor is saying.
Which is why governors love the format.
It’s the one time during the year they can speak uninterrupted for as long as they want (former Gov. Jim Blanchard once spoke almost 90 minutes, which was a new record that no one has broken since, thank the good Lord).
So Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took about 47 minutes the other evening for her fifth State of the State … 20 minutes of which was applause from the Democrats in the joint. More on that later.
She smartly came out the gate with a plan that drew immediate bipartisan applause, which is exactly what she wanted, hoping to prove to everyone that she can work with the other side. And she will need a lot of that this year, because, even though her party controls the state House and state Senate, it is by the slimmest of margins, and on any given day the governor may need some GOP votes to advance her programs.
But, while she got bipartisan kudos for her proposed tax cuts for seniors and needy families, there were elements of the speech where the loyal opposition sat on its collective hands, with nary a peep of support.
Those subjects included social and civil rights for everyone, universal day care for every child 4 years old or younger, and more gun safety laws.
That means she has to turn some of those hand-sitters into hands pushing the “yes” button on the voting board.
It could be a tough sell.
But the governor had two ad libs to jar the Republicans from their opposition.
“I know we might have different priorities, but I hope we can get around supporting 4-year-olds,” she admonished the other side with a smile and a jab.
And, when she pledged to go to Indiana and Ohio to bring jobs back from those “bigoted” states that don’t honor gay rights and other personal liberties, she told the Republicans after they didn’t applaud: “I thought that saying ‘Ohio State’ would get everyone up.”
It could be a long year, but at least the governor got her 47 minutes of interrupted comments before everyone started picking away at what she said. And now her heavy lift begins to get the votes she needs to adopt all that and more.