NEW ORLEANS -- Republican governors wrapped up a low-key, two-day conference yesterday listening to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge laud the benefits of cooperation between the federal government and the states.
But the real star of the show slipped in and out of the meeting at a New Orleans hotel unannounced, without talking to reporters: top White House political strategist Karl Rove.
The architect of President Bush's reelection addressed the governors at a closed dinner Thursday, providing a detailed, statistical explanation about how Bush won, according to some who were there, including Governor-elect Matt Blunt of Missouri and Governor Bob Taft of Ohio.
Some who attended said that Rove emphasized Bush's increased margins among segments of the electorate -- Hispanics, women, evangelicals, and others -- and a major theme was how that justified the president's view of having received a mandate from voters.
Ridge talked about security plans and told the governors that even more money was available for homeland security efforts than they were perhaps aware of.
Ridge, a former governor himself, was criticized during the campaign for appearances and warnings that some said appeared overtly political. The former Marine curtly dismissed that, saying ''we don't do politics" at the Department of Homeland Security.
Republican governors now have a 28-22 majority over Democrats, with the race in Washington state still up in the air.
Before departing, members of the Republican Governors' Association chose Governor Kenny Guinn of Nevada as their new chairman, succeeding Taft. Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts was chosen vice chairman.