Sunday, May 17, 2009

Week 18: Nixon's Grade


As is usual in politics, there are two ways to gauge the amount of success Governor Nixon had during the final week of the legislative session. You could give him credit for eeking out the economic development bill that he made his the top priority. Or you could dock him major points for failing to convince Republicans to restore any healthcare coverage to a single Missourian this year -- a pledge that was the foundation of this campaign for Governor. On another big campaign pledge: expanding A + scholarships, Nixon also came up short. And while he was able to squeeze out a deal with the clock winding down, the first-year Governor was not able to meet his own mid-session goal of signing an economic development bill. There's a fair argument to be made that Nixon didn't deliver on some key initiatives. But here's why The Notebook grade reflects credit where credit is due. In the end, he got his economic development package and Republican Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields praised Nixon's behind-the-scenes negotiating tactics in helping craft the agreement. Nixon's subtle deal-making skills were also on display in nudging lawmakers to authorize $133 million dollars in stimulus money to extend unemployment benefits. It's an idea that was blasted by business groups and some Republicans earlier this session, but Nixon won out. And right now, James Carville's legendary thesis -- "it's the economy stupid" -- especially rings true in state politics. Nixon's failure to get any Medicaid restoration was a clear loss, but it wasn't for not trying. And that's a promise he'll be judged on down the road, so he gets political slack for now. Plus: he is up against Republican majorities while trying to do all this. The most troubling part of the week for Nixon may have been the news that two Republican lawmakers signed affidavits accusing a top aide of attempting to bribe them. It's a blemish, but it's too early to know how big of one. Overall, Nixon received fairly good press from my colleagues in Missouri's "Capitol Gang" in their aftermath writings. The Kansas City Star delivered the most emphatic verdict by declaring a Nixon a winner -- for not losing by avoiding a harsh political setback. Nixon said he scored a touchdown, but missed the point after. That seems fair. We're glad he's keeping score too.

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