- Jonathan Tilove American-Statesman Staff
7:35 p.m. update
Vice President Mike Pence, the calm amid the storm that is the Trump administration, came to Austin Wednesday to lay out for his party’s record-tying number of Republican governors, what the party’s message will be in 2018 stripped of tweets and tumult and the outsized personalty of the man — his boss — who dominates American politics virtually every waking hour of every day.
After praising the people of Texas for their fortitude and heart though Hurricane Harvey and the Sutherland Springs shooting, and lauding Gov. Greg Abbott’s leadership through challenging times, Pence offered greetings to the annual meeting of of the Republican Governors Association from President Donald Trump.
Amid Trumps’ record-low poll numbers for a president a year into his term, and last week’s electoral defeats for Republicans - most notably in the gubernatorial election in Virginia - the party’s best bet to remain its thorough dominance in statehouses and its control of both houses of Congress in next year’s midterm elections, might be to lower the volume and focus on tangible evidence that, with continued Republican hegemony, “to borrow a phrase,” Pence said, “we are going to make America great again.”
“Optimism is sweeping America,” Pence said to a packed JW Marriott Austin ballroom. “More Americans are working than ever before.”
“The stock market is setting records,” he said. “The economy is growing again.”
“In a word, we’ve got real momentum,” Pence said.
Republican Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida did not hesitate for a second Wednesday when asked what Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore should do amid accusations that he was engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with teenagers as young as 14 when he was in his 30s.
“He should get out,” said Walker, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which is holding its annual meeting a the JW Marriott Austin Wednesday and Thursday.
“This is way above partisan politics,” said Scott, the association’s vice chairman. “This is about doing the right thing. It’s pretty clear what’s right and what’s wrong. This is not about Roy Moore. This is about victims.”
“I think about my family,” Scott said. “I have daughters and I have grandsons and when you hear these media reports, it’s disgusting. You just can’t imagine that these things are happening. Whether you are talking about what’s happening in Alabama or L.A., D.C., or the media reports coming out of my state capital.”
“He needs to do the right thing, and the right thing for the citizens of his state, and that means he gets out of the race,” Scott said.
Walker was asked whether the controversy surrounding Moore might affect gubernatorial races next year and place Republican candidates on the defensive.
“No,” Walker said. “No more than the Democrats had to answer for (former U.S. Rep.) Anthony Weiner or (former New York Gov.) Elliot Spitzer or anybody else out there,” Walker said.
“Anthony Weiner did something wrong and I didn’t say all Democrats are Anthony Weiner, that’s just a ridiculous assumption,” Walker said. “Voters in our states are smart. I think a lot of people in politics or covering politics assume that people aren’t very smart. They are. Whether they vote for us or not, I think voters are smart and they are going to want you to answer for things you are going to do as governor, not what somebody else does in some other state.”
But, Walker was asked, if Alabama voters, knowing what they know, elect Moore to the Senate, should Republicans in the Senate seek to keep him from being seated.
“I think they’ve made it pretty clear. You heard Cory Gardner the other day,” said Walker, referring to the Colorado senator, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who said Monday that if Moore is elected, the Senate should expel him.
“I think other leaders have said repeatedly they wouldn’t seat him,” Walker said.