DES MOINES — Larry Hogan and Steve Bullock sounded like two men doing their level best to walk the line between sounding like a governor and a presidential candidate.
That’s a fine line for an out-of-state governor in Iowa the year before a presidential election.
Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, and Bullock, the Democratic governor of Montana, were in Des Moines on Monday for a two-day National Governors Association workshop on workforce issues.
Bullock is weighing whether to jump into the already crowded field of Democrats running for president. Hogan has not ruled out running in the Republican primary against GOP President Donald Trump.
During a brief visit with reporters, Hogan and Bullock insisted their primary reason for being in first-in-the-nation Iowa is to participate in the National Governors Association event. Bullock is the association’s chair and Hogan the vice chair.
But both also criticized the federal government and explained why they think governors make better leaders than members of Congress.
“I don’t know that I do want to be president, but I do think that governors are much more prepared to be president than most other folks,” Hogan said. “With all due respect to our friends in Washington (D.C.), they spend a lot of time making speeches and arguing about things in a committee. But governors actually govern and make decisions every day and run things.
“I have 90,000 employees and run a $48 billion budget," Hogan said. "Some guys down there seem to just care more about getting in the paper.”
“Governors are on the front lines, meaning that this can’t just be about speeches or tweets," Bullock said. "We actually have to get things done. We’re accountable to the people. So we have to figure out ways to actually make government work, and I think that is a lot different than what we see in Washington, D.C.”
Both governors deflected questions about their potential presidential aspirations, saying their focus in Iowa is on the National Governors Association event and their focus back home is on their respective legislative sessions.
Bullock has visited Iowa before and plans to also meet with Iowa Democrats while here this week.
Hogan said he has no campaign activities planned during his stay.
A primary challenge to Trump in Iowa would be daunting: his approval rating among Iowa Republicans remains above 80 percent, according to recent Iowa Polls published by the Des Moines Register. However, nearly 3 in 10 Iowa Republicans in a December Iowa Poll said they would definitely or consider voting for a Republican other than Trump.
Hogan said he has pushed back against Trump’s policies that have been bad for Maryland, but he spread the blame across the nation’s capital, not just the White House.
“I’ve been probably as outspoken as any Democratic governor in the country, have been from Day 1,” Hogan said. “There’s a lot of discussions that are going on on both sides of the aisle, and I can tell you that all of our governors are very concerned about the dysfunction and the divisiveness in Washington (D.C.). And they’re talking to all the leaders in Washington about it.”