As President Obama tries to build Republican support for his economic recovery plan, he's going for something of the tried-and-true "divide and conquer" strategy.
Not a single Republican in the House voted for the $819 billion package last week, but Obama hopes to win at least a few GOP votes in the Senate.
To that end, this morning, Obama held a high-profile Oval Office meeting with Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, among the GOP governors who are pushing for the package.
Douglas, Republican vice-chairman of the National Governors Association, said the states need federal aid to preserve essential services and to avoid tax increases and layoffs.
The governor acknowledged that there "some differences of opinion" on the merits of what is in the $819 billion package passed last week by the House, and that if he wrote the bill, "it might be a little different."
But the "essence of a recovery package" is essential, said Douglas.
"And it's not just a matter of -- of the bigger picture or numbers. It's really quite personal in many cases," Douglas added. "On my floor alone in the office building where I work, four relatives of employees have lost their jobs over the last couple of weeks, so this is a serious matter. It's the kind of recession that is deep, that appears to be long. And the only way we're going to get the country moving again is a partnership between the states and the federal government."
Obama thanked Douglas, whom he called "Jim," for offering his support.
"Nobody understands this better than governors and mayors and county officials who are seeing the devastating effects on the ground of this contraction in the economy. People are being laid off, and that means that governors like Jim are having to not only deal with declining revenue, but increased social services to provide support for people who are unemployed as they're seeking work," the president said.
"There are still some differences between Democrats and Republicans on the Hill between the White House and some of the products that's been discussed on the Hill. But what we can't do is let very modest differences get in the way of the overall package moving forward quickly," Obama added.
"And so I'm very gratified that Governor Douglas, along with many governors from across the country, are going to be weighing in, in these critical next few days. And we hope to be able to get a bill to you in the next couple of weeks so we can put America back to work and start digging ourselves out of this deep hole that we're in."
Later today, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will be meeting with congressional leaders to lobby for the stimulus plan.
On the eve of the Senate debate, Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said today he would hold Obama to his word that he doesn't want any earmarks or unnecessary spending.
McConnell said the version passed by the Democratic-controlled House, and the working package put together by the Democratic-controlled Senate Finance and Appropriations committees includes too many expansions of permanent programs, not matter how laudable.
A better approach to boosting the economy would be addressing the housing crisis and lowering federal income tax rates for people making less than $65,000 a year, McConnell said.
"We're not trying to prevent the package from passing," he told reporters. "We're trying to reform it, reformulate it."
In an interview aired this morning on NBC's "Today" show, Obama acknowledged that he owned the economy now.
"If I don't have this done in three years, then there's gonna be a one-term proposition," Obama said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.