Governors Replace No-Show Presidential Candidates at DLC Meeting


NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen on Monday challenged fellow Democrats to look beyond exploiting Republicans' negative approval ratings for electoral gains.

"That might be a short-term winner - and I think it will be - but it's a losing habit and a disservice to what America needs from us," he said.

Bredesen was among four Democratic governors who spoke at the centrist Democratic Leadership Council's "National Conversation" on Monday. The DLC had invited Democratic presidential candidates to speak to the group, but all declined.

Al From, the DLC's founder and chief executive officer, said all four governors at the meeting - Bredesen, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley - have something in common.

"They all replaced a Republican governor," said From. "We have a lot to learn from them, and I hope our party will listen."

Harold Ford Jr., a former Memphis congressman and the DLC's chairman, said the group will continue to craft what it considers a strong policy platform despite the absence of any presidential candidates from the meeting.

"I say to all my friends who are running for president: As much as we wanted you here, we are ready when you're ready to come home," Ford said.

Ford said the DLC is working to develop a platform based on "three particular fronts: security, values and fiscal disciple."

The Democratic presidential nominee will have to focus on the long term, he said, so election promises don't disintegrate after the election.

"What this president has shown us over the last seven years is that you can win elections, but that doesn't mean you will be able to govern effectively," he said.

Bredesen called for a simple reformulation of the party's objectives.

"I challenge you to describe what the Democratic Party stands for in 25 words - you can't do it," Bredesen said. "Until we can, we're just splashing around in the shallow water."

Sebelius, of Kansas, said Democratic governors have shown examples of innovation in the fields of the environment, health care, homeland security and education.

"We have great story to tell, we have Democratic CEOs in place across the country who are carving new policies in America, who are bringing people together," she said.

Sebelius said she hopes those successes will help improve the chances for the Democratic presidential nominee.

"We have a great opportunity to be hired in 2008, to have a democratic CEO once again in the White House," she said.

Schweitzer, of Montana, called on presidential candidates to encourage energy independence from foreign oil-producing countries.

"Until our country can replace those 4 billion barrels we're importing from dictators, we're going to be completely dependent," he said.

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