A Monday New York Times story by Monica Davey, 'After Months of Rancor, 2 Governors Alter Tones,' portrayed two first term Republican governors in the Midwest as on the defensive, even though both have emerged relatively unscathed in the face of fierce liberal opposition. Davey focused mostly on Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, though Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also featured. Davey put the onus on the Republicans to kiss and make up to their Democratic and union opponents, or at least "show, at least publicly, a desire to play well with others."
Earlier this summer, the Midwest-based Davey co-wrote a hostile story on how fiscal conservatism was hurting Indiana, led by Republican governor and then-presidential hopeful Mitch Daniels. Davey also coauthored a story in March 2011 on the aftermath of Gov. Walker's win in Wisconsin over the unions, portraying the unions' defeat as a political victory: 'In Wisconsin Battle on Unions, State Democrats See a Big Gift.' (It didn't turn out that way.)
Davey put all the blame for bad relations on Walker, complete with condescending language:
After Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican in his first months in office, announced early this year that he wanted to cut collective bargaining rights for public workers, relations between political parties in his newly red State Capitol fell into a long, deep frost.
But after six months of bruising partisan fights, Mr. Walker seemed to issue an utterly different message this month. He said he wanted to meet with Democrats and to find shared agenda items - an invitation that has been met with polite acceptance and deep skepticism.
'My thought is, you start out with small things, you build trust, you move forward, you keep working on things and you try and pick as many things that are things that people can clearly work together on,' Mr. Walker, who may face a recall election next year, said in an interview.
In the months after a flurry of Republican wins of governors' offices and state legislatures in 2010, perhaps nowhere was the partisan rancor more pronounced than in the nation's middle - places like Wisconsin and Ohio, where fights over labor unions exploded. But now, at least in those states, there are signs that the same Republicans see a need to show, at least publicly, a desire to play well with others.
In both states, critics dismiss the moves as desperate attempts to shore up sinking popularity ratings or disingenuous, tardy strategies to appear agreeable after already ramming through their agendas.
Davey relayed nothing of the threatening signs wielded by left-wing and union protesters at the State Capitol in Wisconsin during the heated battles over collective bargaining for public workers earlier this year, and featured no criticism of the minority Senate Democrats who fled state to block a vote on the measure. Davey also breezed over Big Labor's political failure to change the balance of power through recall elections either at the state Supreme Court or the Republican-controlled state senate.
Davey concluded that Walker's refusal to say he was wrong to successfully push for union restrictions signals doom for future bipartisanship.
Reflecting on the start of his term, Mr. Walker said that he wished he had spent more time 'building a case' with the public for why for collective bargaining cuts could shore up budgets, but that he remained a firm supporter of the cuts themselves - a fact that seems certain to complicate any effort for bipartisanship now.